From London, One Hell of an "Oops"

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

From London, One Hell of an "Oops"

The New York Times reports:
Less than a month before the London bombings, Britain's top intelligence and law enforcement officials concluded that "at present there is not a group with both the current intent and the capability to attack the U.K.," according to a confidential terror threat assessment report.

The previously undisclosed report was sent to British government agencies, foreign governments and corporations in mid-June, about three weeks before a team of four British suicide bombers mounted their July 7 attack on London's public transportation system.

The assessment by the Joint Terrorist Analysis Center prompted the British government to lower its formal threat assessment one level, from "severe defined" to "substantial." The center includes officials from Britain's top intelligence agencies, as well as its police forces and Customs.

Asked to comment on the document, a senior British official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "We do not discuss intelligence assessments."
Perhaps the real story should be this ...
British officials said the reduced threat level had no practical impact on terrorism preventive measures, and the British home secretary said it did not make Britain more vulnerable to attack.
Either this contention -- reducing the threat level "had no practical impact on terrorism preventive measures" -- is a lie, or it only underscores that the U.K.'s warning system (and probably the U.S.'s) is mostly about "show."

No one wants to admit the truth, which is that much of what constitutes "intelligence analysis" is nothing more than educated guesses by fallible people who are trying their best. (Note: Sometimes people like Dick Cheney have been known to drop by these analysts' offices to offer his own form of encouragement.)

The public wants to feel reassured so they'd prefer not to accept the limitations of threat-assessment warning systems. Governments want to be seen as diligent in fighting terror so they produce "alerts" and other announcements that provide this (generally false) reassurance.

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