Don’t be surprised if between now and Election Day the terror-alert colors start dancing around like the jackpot lights on a cheap Las Vegas slot machine hitting triple sevens.
In early August, while presidential nominee John Kerry was riding a pink cloud after the Democratic National Convention, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge ratcheted up the terror-alert status a notch based on “credible intelligence” (now known to be 3 or 4 years old) that key financial institutions in New York and Washington were under close al Qaeda surveillance and might soon become targets.
Five times since Sept. 11, 2001, the administration has placed the nation on “high” alert. And what is it, precisely, that placating an alarmed American public with security money and manpower has achieved?
A detainee in Canada starts singing about terrorists who have slipped into the United States, whipping the Department of Homeland Security into another one of its falling-sky modes. It turns out that the guy fabricated the threat in hopes of getting a better deal on a forgery charge.
In early summer, Ridge and Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that 90 percent of al Qaeda plans were in place for a major terrorist attack in the United States before the November election.
All of this creates an ongoing public perception of vulnerability.
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