Thursday, July 12, 2007

Mendacity from Chertoff?

The following statement was made by Michael Chertoff in video shown on the Situation Room on CNN (video seen on the afternoon of 12 July 2007):

"We don't currently have specific [ahem], credible information about a particular threat against the homeland [ah] in the near future."

This is a classic example of a carefully constructed, pre-spun statement that offers little but plausible deniability to Chertoff. The reporter doing the interview failed to ask Chertoff why he chose his words to not exclude the possibility that the truth is:

"We currently have specific, credible information about an attack within the US a few months from now."

Recited in a calm, soothing voice, Chertoff's handlers expect that most Americans will hear "There are no credible threats against the United States" rather than what those words actually mean to someone who understands logic and its use in rhetoric.

All that Chertoff has excluded is a very narrow group of possible situations. In addition to the version above, his statement leaves open the possibility that

"We have specific, credible information about an attack on American interests overseas in the near future."


"We have specific information about a particular threat against the homeland in the near future whose credibility is in question."

Like the Rice mendacity quaver, Chertoff might give away the truth when he pauses at two points in his statement where the qualifiers "specific" and "in the near future" are inserted.

Any of these would lead to a very different reaction in the media, yet the person interviewing him for CNN did not ask any followup question about why he chose his words to avoid excluding these possibilities. My guess is that he was backed into a corner by his earlier remarks and needed a way out that would not help our enemies realize we know what they are up to, and that he did a better job of fooling CNN and the public than he did of fooling Al' Qaeda.

Proof that he fooled the AP, and through them some American citizens. CNN carries an AP report that "he [Chertoff] and others continue to say they know of no specific, credible information pointing to an attack here." As you can see above, that is not what Chertoff said. What Chertoff said could mean that he knows of specific credible information pointing to an attach here in six months.

If he was forced to obfuscate a mistaken leak, at least Chertoff stayed within the bounds of proper handling of highly classified information, unlike the persons who have allowed Al' Qaeda to rebuild in Pakistan after the US military put them out of business at the end of 2001, the ones who also gave the enemy in Iraq three months warning of our impending "surge" and exposed our anti-proliferation assets in the middle east.

Let's pray that they handle this better than Katrina or "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US".

Presidential Update:

The President added another (rather transparent) example of the half-truth form of mendacity in his press conference today. When pressed about the National Counterterrorism Center's observation that "Al Qaeda better positioned to strike the West", Bush said that Al Qaeda is weaker now than if we had done nothing.

Right but not relevant. They are weaker now than if we had done nothing on 12 September 2001, but his own intelligence agencies are telling him that they are stronger now than if we had continued to fight Al Qaeda in 2003 instead of diverting our resources to Iraq and creating the ultimate recruiting and training tool for bin Laden. As above, we can already see reporters saying the administration is claiming we are safer now than 6 years ago when the real question is whether we are safer than we were 5 years ago, or even 2 years ago.

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