The Bush gang tries to divert attention with terror alert fraud
By Nicole Colson | June 4, 2004 | Page 12
WHAT'S THE Bush administration's answer to a failing occupation and plummeting approval ratings? Try to divert attention.
On May 26, Attorney General John Ashcroft, with FBI Director Robert Mueller by his side, announced that terrorists were planning to target the U.S. during the summer months. "Credible intelligence, from multiple sources, indicates that al-Qaeda plans to attempt an attack on the United States in the next few months," Ashcroft warned. Ashcroft and Mueller even posted mug shots of seven suspected al-Qaeda operatives.
But Ashcroft apparently hadn't mentioned the new "terror threat" to the Department of Homeland Security--the agency officially in charge of making such pronouncements. "There's not a consensus within the administration that we need to raise the threat level," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge later said.
And as for the seven "terrorists," Ashcroft and Mueller admitted that they didn't know whether any were currently in the U.S. In fact, the names of six of the suspects were released to the public months ago.
Even the mainstream media had to question the administration's motives. As the San Francisco Chronicle commented in an editorial, "[S]keptics among us are left to wonder: Was this news conference prompted by a qualitative change in the terror-threat assessment, or was it a political move to change the subject from the distressing news out of Iraq and the sour aftertaste of the September 11 hearings?"
Yet just two days later, the Bush gang was at it again. On Friday, the FBI issued a terror alert to several cities, apparently claiming that a terrorist attack was "imminent"--before withdrawing it several hours later when it turned out to be "unfounded."
But the phantom terror threats are nothing compared to the damage Ashcroft can do when he really lets the Justice Department pit bulls off the leash. Just ask Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield.
On May 6, Mayfield was arrested on a "material witness" warrant for his supposed involvement in the March train bombings that killed 191 people in Madrid, Spain. As it turns out, Mayfield was innocent all along--and the government knew it.
The only thing that linked Mayfield to the bombings was a single, digital image of a fingerprint obtained from a plastic bag found in Spain that contained detonator caps. FBI officials were so eager to condemn Mayfield that they described the match between the digital print and Mayfield's as "100 percent"--even when Spanish authorities expressed doubt about Mayfield's involvement. The Feds didn't even bother to look at the original print when they were in Madrid on April 21, meeting with Spanish authorities.
Mayfield is a Muslim, and last year, he represented a Portland man--accused of planning to help the Taliban fight American forces--in a child custody dispute. In fact, one of the justifications for Mayfield's arrest was apparently nothing more than the fact that he was seen driving to the Bilal mosque, his regular place of worship. "This stuff is so unsubstantial that I think the only reason it was in there was to inflame the grand jury," Thomas Nelson, who helped represent Mayfield, told the New York Times. "I think this was intentionally inflammatory, and it's outrageous. It doesn't belong in a court document, and it's a slap in the face of every Muslim in the nation."
Still the media--with the aid of the FBI--went wild, branding Mayfield a terrorist. "Upon initially being arrested, I was informed by the arresting officers that the media was close behind," Mayfield said in a written statement following his release. "Within minutes of my arrest, the allegations of my involvement in the Madrid bombing were being disseminated through the media. Notwithstanding the judge's gag order, the government put out its theory and its facts while we were prevented from saying anything."
FBI agents ripped Mayfield's home apart searching for "evidence," and his three children even had to be provided security just to be able to attend their schools. "They took my children's Spanish homework," Mayfield's wife, Mona, told the Associated Press. "They can turn anyone into a terrorist."
It took 14 days in jail before officials finally admitted that Mayfield was innocent--and halfheartedly apologized for the "mix-up," blaming the problem on the "substandard quality" of the digital print.
That's little comfort to Mayfield--who was branded a "terrorist" and had his name dragged through the mud. At a press conference days after his release, Mayfield held his hand up to the crowd, saying, "I'm two or three days out of detention, and I'm just now starting to not shake."
Feds find another Muslim scapegoat
IN ADDITION to their on-again, off-again terror alerts last week, the Bush administration and its cheerleaders were celebrating the arrest of Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri--who they called "Britain's bin Laden."
After months of negotiations, the Bush administration finally got the British government to arrest Hamza, a British citizen, on charges that include conspiracy in the kidnapping of 16 Western tourists in Yemen in 1998, and attempting to set up an al-Qaeda training camp in Oregon sometime in 1999 or 2000.
"Hamza is the real deal," Raymond Kelly, New York City's police commissioner, told the New York Times. "Think of him as a freelance consultant to terrorist groups worldwide." But Kelly and the Bush administration's hacks will be hard-pressed to explain how Abu Hamza could have plotted to open a terrorist training camp in Oregon--since he's been under intense surveillance by British intelligence since 1998.
Actually, the timing of Hamza's arrest appears to be a calculated move on the Bush administration's part to deflect attention away from the continuing crisis in their occupation of Iraq. John Ashcroft, for example, went out of his way to publicize the extradition--going so far as to hold a press conference in New York City. As Britain's Independent commented, "[Hamza's] planned arrest was also leaked to [the right-wing British paper] The Sun's political editor hours before it took place, ensuring a positive front page story on anti-terrorism."