Larry Johnson, a former counter-terrorism official at the CIA and State Department, calls the Bush administration "irresponsible" for raising the terror threat level. Johnson says intelligence suggests attacks on U.S. financial institutions have been considered -- not that they are in the works.
The administration's terror allert was provoked by the recovery of targeting documents that indicated that, at some point in the past, terrorists had studied the buildings in question. Johnson spoke with NPR's Steve Inskeep.
the casing of buildings started even before 9/11. Maybe these were al-Qaida's alternate plans for the 9/11 attack itself. Maybe they were considering a follow-up. Maybe the plans were shelved, maybe they weren't. As far as we know, the new information is specific about location but tells us nothing about timing. Which is why the timing of the current warning -- aimed for maximum damping of any post-convention Democratic bounce -- smells so fishy.
Update II: This morning's NYT:
Reports That Led to Terror Alert Were Years Old, Officials Say
This news does nothing to bolster the confidence Americans need that the administration is not using intelligence for political gain.
Last Update: from the Washington Post:
More than half a dozen government officials interviewed yesterday, who declined to be identified because classified information is involved, said that most, if not all, of the information about the buildings seized by authorities in a raid in Pakistan last week was about three years old, and possibly older.
"There is nothing right now that we're hearing that is new," said one senior law enforcement official who was briefed on the alert. "Why did we go to this level? . . . I still don't know that."