Friday, August 25, 2006


#3: Who orders Assistant US Attorney Stephen Miller around?

As we are all very well aware, a guy named Javed Iqbal has been arrested in New York on charges of retransmitting the Al-Manar TV station. The station happens to be on the US Government terrorist organizations list. Now, the relevant US law explicitly excludes from the presidential authority "the importation from any country, or the exportation to any country, whether commercial or otherwise, regardless of format or medium of transmission, of any information or informational materials". See for example, this excerpt. It would be naive to think that Assistant Attorney Miller does not know the relevant statute.

Now that the minor issue of the law is out of the picture, it would be pretty interesting journalism to investigate who was applying pressure to the US Attorney office to go after Mr. Iqbal? There is a good reason to expect the chain of command in this case to terminate inside some Israeli lobbying structure in the US. After the disastrous results of outsourcing our foreign policy to Israel, is the Bush administration doing the same with our law enforcement?

Tip: I have learned about the US law in question from this guy's blog. He might be fun to talk to.

Another tip: Coalition Against Terrorist Media seems to be built for the sole purpose of preventing Al Manar from being broadcast in the US. The coalition seems to be a division of Foundation for Defense of Democracy, a well known part of "The Lobby".

The actual complaint makes a very interesting reading (and little sense, in my opinion).

Monday, August 14, 2006


#2: What PR technology is behind the terrorism scare?

Reading press recently is scary -- but not for the reasons one might assume. I am really concerned about Americans both in press and in general population swallowing half-baked terrorist stories without any critical thinking. If a journalist would just stop for a minute, assume that she might be fed the wrong information, and call an independent expert prior to simply copying the text into her article, the quality of the publications will be higher and the chances of Rummy continuing his current policy will be lower.

For example, the "liquid bomb" scare sounds completely ridiculous if one bothers to ask anyone even remotely knowledgeable in chemistry (I did ask). There is no way to combine two or more household chemicals and create anything truly exploding (as opposed to bubbling). We all tried this as kids, and we know it does not work. Yes, the liquid binary explosives do actually exist (for example, the PLX), but their components are anything but benign or household items.

Similarly, the Wal-Mart terrorists story also fails even a cursory reality check. The three guys supposedly have bought 1,000 cell phones to blow a huge suspension bridge. Press did not bother to ask the experts (or law enforcement) how much explosive material will be necessary to down this bridge (looking at the photos of the bridge I can bet it is in multiple tonnes), where the group stored the said material (as starting the plot with buying the easily available phones is insane) , why did the group need 1,000 phones (as opposed to one or two).

But the questions above are not very interesting. What really tickles me is an ease with which the press is manipulated into uncritical dissemination of the information fed to it by authorities. In short,

What is the delivery mechanism for the obviously hoax terror plot stories into the mainstream press?

It seems that there is much more glory in a "sensational" article showing that the liquid bombs are not easier to make, handle, or smuggle onboard than the conventional ones than there is in parroting the official line. So, what ropes does the US executive branch pull to make the US journalists dance to its tune?

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