Friday, August 06, 2004

Seeing through the latest terror alert 

Bushland Security Secretary Tom Ridge claims his latest terrorism alert is not politically motivated, even though it served well to get the newly nominated Democratic presidential ticket of Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards replaced by photos of machine gun-toting cops on the nation's front pages. The alert also became Topic A for discussion just as questions about George W.'s Bush's mental state starting spreading across the Internet from Capitol Hill Blue and Online Journal. Some people took this terrorism warning more seriously than past ones because the intelligence supporting it supposedly contained much more specific information than previously. There were named targets, including the New York Stock Exchange and the Citicorp Center in Manhattan, Prudential Financial in New Jersey, and the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington, DC.

But while traffic in lower Manhattan was snarled by searches and barricades, there were early indications that this latest alert stank of politics: First Lady Laura Bush, Republican New York Governor George Pataki and Republican New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited the alleged terrorist target Citicorp Center, and the base of the Statue of Liberty was opened to the public for the first time since September 11, 2001. Then it was revealed that most of the intelligence underpinning this latest terrorism warning was years old; the most recent alleged al-Q'aeda "update" of the information occurred in January, over seven months ago.

Another clue about the political nature of this warning lies in the naming of the Citicorp Center as a terrorist target. If terrorists want to cripple that bank, in order to help crash the American economy before the elections, wrecking this particular building won't do it.

This writer has a friend who worked for Citigroup for over 20 years, until downsizing and outsourcing reached her department. She sent me an email stating that she thought the terrorist warning was BS, because anyone who knows the inner workings of Citigroup knows that Citicorp Center is irrelevant to the operations of Citibank! She noted that Citigroup only has the first seven floors of that building; the rest are leased. The US headquarters of this financial institution are in the suburbs, not in Manhattan.

She also suggested that if terrorists really wanted to harm Citigroup, the proper target would be India, where most of the processing and customer service operations for both the consumer and institutional bank are now located.

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