I ignore the news for one day and just look
at what happens. All sorts
of stories vie for our attention.
We'll get to that material in a later post. Right now, I want to discuss a Salon story you may have missed -- Patrick L. Smith's skeptical reaction to the claimed "terror threat."
His reaction mirrors my own:
After a week of ghost stories about an imminent but vaporous plot on the part of an al-Qaida “affiliate” — this is the big new word — it is hard to decide which is more disheartening: 1) The White House’s blithe if clumsy deployment of factoids, 2) the supine complicity of the media (and this, frankly, is my choice), or 3) the willingness of honorable liberals and capital-D Democrats to go along with the show simply because Obama is maestro and one stays with Obama no matter what he does.
Nothing can be said for certain as to what prompted the State Department to close more than 20 embassies and consulates in the Middle East and North Africa last Sunday, and this is by design. But it is no excuse not to raise the possibility that Americans are eating a summer salad of nonsense served to justify objectionable surveillance practices now coming in for scrutiny.
Now we find that al-Qaida was not on the run after all. It has fragmented, and this is where all the “affiliates” come in. There are said to be enough affiliates to keep the NSA supplied for years. In this case, intelligence picked up a telephone conversation (those incautious Islamists) between a powerful giver of orders in Pakistan — from the decapitated, fragmented al-Qaida — and an underling in an affiliate in Yemen. The alleged command was to attack.
The rest is smoke. No what, no when, no where.
Jihadists all know that the NSA is listening. Therefore, it seems possible that any incautious phone call might have come from one of "our" agents infiltrating the movement. (There have been many infiltrators.) It's possible that this whole period of frenzy was created by a conspiracy of two -- one guy who makes the call, and another who tells him to make such a call. All of the other actors may be operating in good faith.
Whether ersatz or real, the phoned threat seems to have left the Secret Service jumpier than usual. I was in DC the other day testing a new video camera (given in lieu of pay for a project, as noted in an earlier post). I had planned to take shots of the JFK grave sight followed by footage of the usual monuments. I gotta tell ya, it was no fun lugging a heavy bag around Arlington National Cemetery and then making the trek from the White House to the Capitol Building and thence to Union Station. That sort of activity was a lot easier back in 1988, when I made my first trip to DC.
At any rate, security around the White House was tight -- tighter than I had ever seen before. The photo above was taken with the camera affixed to a crummy (and far too heavy) tripod purchased for seven bucks from a thrift store. Earlier, I had been among that crowd by the fence, setting up a shot, when a Secret Service Guy shouted at me:
"You're kidding, right?" I said. He shot me a look which indicated that he was not kidding. Secret Service Guys are good at giving such looks.
Fortunately, the fence itself provided a good support, and we now have post-production stabilizers which can do magic.
After taking a few shots in that location, I moved back and took the tripod shot you see above. All the while I wondered: What security reason required a tripod-free zone in an area that (not long ago) was free and open? It's not as though I could hide a firearm in that thrift store tripod.
The answer may have something to do with the guys on the roof of the White House, seen here in telephoto. They
were allowed to have tripods. Didn't seem fair.
I don't know what those two guys were up to. But I can't help suspecting that their activity, along with the palpably increased paranoia level, may have had some relationship to the alleged terror threat from Pakistan or Yemen or wherever.
Originally, I had also planned to take a few shots of the CIA's old headquarters
at 2430 E Street NW. Apparently, the Agency still uses this building in conjunction with Homeland Security. They're working on some sort of joint task force on terror. National Paranoia Day may not have been a good time for a guy carrying a bulky pack to be seen taking video footage of a place like that.
On the plus side -- or maybe the unforgivably sexist side -- the Mall was brimming
with beautiful women. All nationalities and backgrounds. All beautiful. If you're an aging letch and you wish to admire a display of pulchritude, don't head to the beach -- hang out near the Smithsonian.
The sight made me proud. God bless America!