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Zero for 40 at Predicting Attacks: Why Do Media Still Take FBI Terror Warnings Seriously?
By Adam Johnson/ FAIR/ July 1, 2015
On Monday, several mainstream media outlets repeated the latest press releaseby the FBI that country was under a new “heightened terror alert” from “ISIL-inspired attacks” “leading up to the July 4th weekend.” One of the more sensational outlets, CNN, led with the breathless warning on several of its cable programs, complete with a special report by The Lead’s Jim Sciutto in primetime:
The threat was given extra credence when former CIA director—and consultant at DC PR firm Beacon Global Strategies—Michael Morell went on CBS This Morning (6/29/15) and scared the ever-living bejesus out of everyone by saying he “wouldn’t be surprised if we were sitting [in the studio] next week discussing an attack on the US.” The first piece of evidence Morell used to justify his apocalyptic posture, the “50 ISIS arrests,” was accompanied by a scary map on the CBS jumbotron showing “ISIS arrests” all throughout the US:
But one key detail is missing from this graphic: None of these “ISIS arrests” involved any actual members of ISIS, only members of the FBI—and their network of informants—posing as such. (The one exception being the man arrested in Arizona, who, while having no contact with ISIS, was also not prompted by the FBI.) So even if one thinks the threat of “lone wolf” attacks is a serious one, it cannot be said these are really “ISIS arrests.” Perhaps on some meta-level, it shows an increase of “radicalization,” but it’s impossible to distinguish between this and simply more aggressive sting operations by the FBI.
In any event, this nuance gets left out entirely. As I’ve previously shown, in the media’s rush to hype the threat, the fact of FBI-manufactured—or at least “assisted”—terror plots is left out as a complicating factor altogether, and the viewer is left thinking the FBI arrested 50 actual ISIS sleeper cells.
Nevertheless, the ominous FBI (or Department of Homeland Security) “terror warning” has become such a staple of the on-going, seemingly endless “war on terror” (d/b/a war on ISIS), we hardly even notice it anymore. Marked by a feedback loop of extremist propaganda, unverifiable claims about “online chatter” and fuzzy pronouncements issued by a neverending string of faceless Muslim bad guys, and given PR cover by FBI-contrived “terror plots,” the specter of the impending “attack” is part of a broader white noise of fear that never went away after 9/11. Indeed, the verbiage employed by the FBI in this latest warning —“we’re asking people to remain vigilant”—implies no actual change of the status quo, just an hysterical nudge to not let down our collective guard.
There’s only one problem: These warnings never actually come to fruition. Not rarely, or almost never, but—by all accounts—never. No attacks, no arrests, no suspects at large.
Here’s a selection of previous FBI and DHS “terror warnings” over the past 14 years, not a single one of which actually predicted or foiled a terror attack:
October 2001: “Potential use of chemical/biological and/or radiological/nuclear weapons“
November 2001: California bridges
February 2002: “Hollywood studios”
May 2002: Statue of Liberty
June 2002: “Around the Fourth of July holiday”
July 2002: Stadiums
August 2002: “Landmarks”
October 2002: “AQ to attack Amtrak”
November 2002: “Spectacular Al Qaeda attacks”
February 2003: “Apartments, hotels, sports arenas and amusement parks“
May 2003: “Possibility of multiple attacks”
May 2004: “Attempt to affect the outcome” of presidential election
July 2004: “Military facilities and large gatherings” on July 4th
August 2004: VA hospitals
January 2005: Dirty bomb
March 2005: US/Mexican border
October 2005: NYC & Baltimore subways
March 2006: “Sporting events”
June 2007: Colleges
December 2007: “Shopping malls in Chicago and LA”
November 2008: “Al Qaeda to attack transit during Thanksgiving”
November 2010: Mass transit in New York City
October 2011: “Americans in Europe” facing “commando-style AQ attack”
February 2011: “Financial institutions”
May 2011: “Threats of retaliation”
June 2011: Al Qaeda “hit list”
September 2011: “Small planes”
September 2011: “New York City or Washington around…10th anniversary of 9/11”
September 2011: Airports
March 2012: “Terrorist hacking”
August 2012: Anarchists blowing up bridge during Tampa RNC
September 2012: “Islamic violence over movie”
August 2013: “San Fransisco on high alert”
November 2013: “cyber attacks”
April 2014: “College students abroad”
December 2014: ISIS targeting Mississippi River bridge
December 2014: ISIS “sabotaging US military personnel” over social media
April 2015: ISIS targeting “parts of California”
May 2015: ISIS targeting “military bases”
A casual search reveals the FBI and DHS are a pitiful 0 for 40 warning of terror attacks—some of which were specifically about 4th of July threats, none of which materialized in any way. This should not be considered a comprehensive list of all threat warnings transmitted by media; I tried to narrow the scope to warnings that were at least in some way specific.
The actual terror attacks carried out on US soil—the Times Square bomber, “Underwear bomber,” Boston bombing and Garland attacks—were accompanied by no such warnings. (Nor were the often deadlier terrorist attacks by right-wing white terrorists–but terrorism in this category is rarely if ever the subject of FBI warnings.)
By Arlen Grossman
A 12-year-old Colombian girl was allegedly drugged and raped inside a Colombian air force base in 2007. The perpetrators were U.S. Army Sergeant Michael J. Coen and defense contractor Cesar Ruiz. They were never arrested and were subsequently flown out of Colombia.
That scathing accusation was part of a report jointly commissioned by the pro-U.S. Colombian government and the leftist rebel group FARC. The 800-page document, according to Colombia Reports, was written to help peace negotiators determine responsibility for the 220,000 dead victims and millions more injured in the 50-year armed conflict between the Colombian government and the rebels. The U.S. military has been assisting the government of Colombia all those years in the fight against the FARC and other leftist groups.
Colombians were understandably outraged about the rape of the 12-year-old girl. The victim, her sister, and her mother were forced to move to a different city because of threats from forces loyal to the suspects, the mother told Colombian television. The U.S. embassy in 2009 told Miami newspaper El Nuevo Herald that it might reopen the closed case against Coen and Ruiz, but the two suspects remain unindicted.
The report also accuses U.S. soldiers and military contractors of sexually abusing at least 54 Colombian children between 2003 and 2007. These crimes were reportedly filmed and sold as pornograpy. According to Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper, the victims’ families received death threats, forcing them to flee the region. There have been no prosecutions for these crimes due to immunity clauses in agreements between the U.S. and Colombia.
If you are an American and this is the first you’ve heard of these crimes, it’s not surprising. Because as horrific as these crimes are, there are two additional layers of shame: that the perpetrators were able to escape prosecution because of bilateral immunity agreements, and that reports of these vicious child sex crimes have been ignored by the mainstream American news media.
The New York Times or Washington Post hasn’t reported on these charges. CNN and MSNBC have ignored them. In fact, there is a virtual blackout from the corporate media on the commission’s report.
The American government, military and media should be ashamed. And the American people should be as outraged as the Colombians. The news media blackout is inexcusable.
By Arlen Grossman
I understand we are supposed to be terrified of Iran. I just can’t figure out why. Yes, there is the possibility they could build a nuclear weapon. They claim they don’t want to, and the CIA and Mossad haven’t found evidence that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program.
Of course, most of us don’t want to see Iran, or any other country, acquire nuclear weapons. But even if Iran was able to build a nuclear weapon, what could they do with it? At least nine other countries have their own stockpiles. The United States has thousands of nuclear warheads, and Israel is reported to have dozens.
Iran is not suicidal or crazy. They are aware that if they tried to use a nuclear weapon against the United States or Israel, the country of Iran would be wiped off the map. Despite the dire warnings from Bibi Netanyahu and hawkish American politicians, the threat from Iran is wildly exaggerated.
So who benefits from the Iran-Is-Out-to-Get-Us scare tactics? The list is long. We all know war is good for business and there are dozens of weapons manufacturers and private contractors rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of another Mideast war. The Pentagon would love to prove their worth against Iran, too. One-sided wars provide opportunities for heroics and promotions within the military, and an increased Pentagon budget is inevitable.
The news networks love war, too. What could be better for ratings than a war against Iran? Hawkish politicians would love to push us into war. Whether you are an Israeli prime Minister or a Republican politician, coming down hard on Iran is a sure money and vote getter from your conservative base. Needless to say, the oil industry and OPEC countries see dollar signs from higher prices that would result from any conflict with Iran.
But in real life, a preemptive war against Iran could spiral out of control, resulting in massive death, disruption and destruction in the region and throughout the world. A negotiated settlement is well worth our effort.
(Also published in OpEd News March 25-Headline Status)
“I never would have agreed to the formulation of the Central Intelligence Agency back in ’47, if I had known it would become the American Gestapo. ”
— Harry S Truman (1961)