Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mark Steyn connects the dolts
To connect the dots, you have to see the dots

May 14, 2006

BY MARK STEYN SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST

Here are two news stories from the end of last week. The first one you may have heard about. As "The Today Show's" Matt Lauer put it:

"Does the government have your number? This morning a shocking new report that the National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone records of tens of millions of Americans."

The second story comes from the United Kingdom and what with Lauer's hyperventilating you may have missed it. It was the official report into the July 7 bus and Tube bombings. As The Times of London summarized the conclusions:

"Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the bomb cell, had come to the attention of MI5 [Britain's domestic intelligence agency] on five occasions but had never been pursued as a serious suspect . . .

"A lack of communication between police Special Branch units, MI5 and other agencies had hampered the intelligence-gathering operation;

"There was a lack of co-operation with foreign intelligence services and inadequate intelligence coverage in . . ."

Etc., etc., ad nauseam.

So there are now two basic templates in terrorism media coverage:

Template A (note to editors: to be used after every terrorist atrocity): "Angry family members, experts and opposition politicians demand to know why complacent government didn't connect the dots."

Template B (note to editors: to be used in the run-up to the next terrorist atrocity): "Shocking new report leaked to New York Times for Pulitzer Prize Leak Of The Year Award nomination reveals that paranoid government officials are trying to connect the dots! See pages 3,4,6,7,8, 13-37."

How do you connect the dots? To take one example of what we're up against, two days before 9/11, a very brave man, the anti-Taliban resistance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, was assassinated in Afghanistan by killers posing as journalists. His murderers were Algerians traveling on Belgian passports who'd arrived in that part of the world on visas issued by the Pakistani High Commission in the United Kingdom. That's three more countries than many Americans have visited. The jihadists are not "primitives". They're part of a sophisticated network: They travel the world, see interesting places, meet interesting people -- and kill them. They're as globalized as McDonald's -- but, on the whole, they fill in less paperwork. They're very good at compartmentalizing operations: They don't leave footprints, just a toeprint in Country A in Time Zone B and another toe in Country E in Time Zone K. You have to sift through millions of dots to discern two that might be worth connecting…

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