In this issue:
America's latest, greatest terrorist threat is a cell of Miami martial arts fans with no weapons, no real plan, and no ties to al Qaida beyond what connections an FBI informant claimed to have. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should have been ashamed to go to Miami to hold a press conference on such a small matter.
Yet if this is the kind of case the FBI is busy building as part of its anti-terror efforts we should all be very afraid. Informants representing themselves as al Qaida to target non al Qaida malcontents will not help you gather intelligence on what the real al Qaida might be up to.
And it is the long, slow slog of building up human intelligence contacts that the FBI and all of American intelligence has grown impatient with over the years. A public relations campaign built around the arrests of some careless wannabes may generate headlines, but it should not be mistaken for effective counter-terrorism.
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2. A Party for Losers
Republican attempts to portray Democrats as America-hating defeatists bent on a "cut and run" strategy for Iraq are clumsy, but Democrats keep outdoing the GOP with even more absurd rhetoric. Latest case in point: Congressman John Murtha telling an audience in Miami that U.S. troops in Iraq are a bigger threat to world peace than a nuclear Iran or North Korea.
Even if you concede that a nuclear-armed Iran might be somewhat sane and deterrable, there is no way a nuclear North Korea is anyone's idea of a nice neighbor. It is a military dictatorship in a permanent state of war with the rest of the world.
Murtha's geopolitical point, that U.S. troops and bases are becoming a source of friction in the world, is true enough. But the point is lost when you mix it up with world-peace blather and comparisons to international bogeymen like Iran and North Korea. The GOP attack ad practically writes itself.
3. Holes in the Net
Is it really news that the U.S. is unprepared for an extended Net outage? The Business Roundtable (a 160-member group of chief executives from Hewlett-Packard, General Motors, Home Depot, Coca-Cola and other major companies) published a paper Friday reminding everyone that a big internet failure could really ruin your day. But this has to be obvious.
Businesses of every size and scope routinely hand off mission critical tasks to some part of the Internet. As such, they are theoretically vulnerable to "cyberattack." But there is a cost-benefit analysis that each enterprise must make on just how far they are willing to go to "harden" themselves against disruption. Some financial service info handlers have built entire duplicate systems and networks with their own dedicated power supplies. That might make sense for them.
Calling on the government for a "national policy," as the Roundtable does, simply confuses the matter. It cannot be the government's responsibility to identify cyber risks and secure everyone's computer for them. Starting down this path is the surest road to a real cyber disaster.
4. Quick Hits
Quote of the Week
"The Americans will certainly come to me, to Saddam Hussein's legitimate leadership and to the Iraqi Baath Party, to rescue them from their huge quandary"—Saddam Hussein, according to his lawyer, predicting that he will again rule in Iraq.
Write on National Security, Spend a Night in the Box
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) thinks The New York Times should be prosecuted for doing a story on federal snooping on private bank records.
Spinning the HD Discs
With the rival HD DVD format already on the market, Sony has taken to assuring everyone that its Blu-ray format is the best choice for movie lovers. Sony will have its disc out by Christmas.
A suicide car bomb killed several Pakistani soldiers in the North Waziristan tribal region. The area has long been a Taliban and al Qaida stomping ground. Car bombs directed against government forces would be a new wrinkle.
5. New at Reason Online
Even annoying, rich white boys deserve justice. Jeff A. Taylor
Why the new crisis in marriage isn't. Julian Sanchez
Neutering the Net
Why Microsoft, Amazon, and other charitable organizations want to regulate the Internet. Nick Gillespie
And much more!
6. News and Events
Reason in Amsterdam, 2006
The Grand Amsterdam Hotel August 23-26, 2006.
With Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of the hit show South Park, Time magazine's Andrew Sullivan, Reason magazine Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie, and Reason Senior Editor Jacob Sullum, among others.
Join Reason in Amsterdam for a three-day conference on the contemporary struggle for freedom in Europe.
After a kick-off dinner on Wednesday, August 23, attendees will enjoy two days of formal sessions on everything from tax harmonization and Dutch social policy to the threat of radical Islam (the preliminary schedule is here). On Saturday, August 26, attendees will have the option of participating in a wide range of group activities, including tours of the Anne Frank House, the van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Rembrandthuis, where Rembrandt van Rijn's 400th birthday will be commemorated this year by four major exhibitions of the celebrated artist's work.
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