Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Sunday April 21st, 2013 Talking Heads


Today Dianne Feinstein and Pete King will talk about "cracks in our national security infrastructure" and I'm sure that won't be alarmist at all! Plus, various panels of varying utility.

Wallace says this week was the "first mass bombing since 9/11." Was there a bombing on 9/11? Man, it must have gotten pushed way down the page considering all the not-bombing things that were happening, like the airplanes being hijacked and flown into buildings. First, though, here is the Chief of Police for Boston, Ed Davis.

Davis says that Tsarnaev, the one that's alive and in the hospital awaiting questioning (a series of "WTFs?!" over and over again), is in "serious but stable" condition and is awaiting questioning by a "special team from the FBI." Davis says that he is "in no condition to be questioned at this time."

Are there more attacks coming? Davis says that while there "may be other components to the investigation," they are telling Bostonians that they are safe. Is it possible that there are more explosives out there? Davis says it's possible, but they've searched all the locations associated with the Tsarnaev brothers. He says that the explosives they used to attack police during their Thursday night rampage were probably meant "to be used against soft targets."

Davis is "not positive" but "confident" that there are no more explosions in the offing.

Can he speculate as to their motive? No. No he cannot. Wallace asks if he "can't say because he doesn't know or if he can't say because he can't say." Davis says he can't say because he can't say. Wallace says, okay, winkingly. The two terms actually can mean the same thing. But whatever. No one is going to be giving important details of a fluid investigation to a Sunday Morning Chat Show. The last person to try to do that was Susan Rice and you saw how that turned out. Since then, I've advocated a strict "Say nothing of global importance to a Sunday Morning talk show host," and I hope it remains largely implemented today.

Now Davis can't hear Wallace's questions, and the conversation ends, if onlt temporarily.

So, we switch to Pete King and DiFi.

Ha, ha, no! We go back to Davis? Wallace asks if the older Tsarnaev influenced the younger into getting mixed up in crime and Davis basically says that he won't speculate. Wallace asks what set the brothers off on their Thursday night rampage when everyone knows that it's Saturday night that's all right for fighting. Davis says that they likely decided to "go active" after they realized they'd been made and now everyone in Boston was looking for them.

Back to King and DiFi.

Wallace asks whether or not Tsarnaev should be treated as a criminal or an enemy combatant. One would hope that there is some sort of dividing line that trips you from one definition to the other, based on whether or not either of these guys had made actual contact with overseas terrorist organization. Their uncle referred to these two as "losers," and so far I'm content defining them as such. I'm open to revisiting that as new evidence comes in, but I'm really against Senator Lindsey Graham giving this pair a battlefield promotion. He just needs to calm his hysterics. Someone needs to put him on a lithium drip whenever the country is in trouble.

Anyway, DiFi says that the "only legal way to proceed" is to question him without Mirandizing under the "public safety exception" and that the enemy combatant distinction does not apply in this case. She touts the fact that the court system has beaten military tribunals like a drum when it comes to convicting terrorists of this kind. She also mentions something I didn't know, which is that the younger Tsarnaev was shot in the throat. So it will be a while before he can, so to speak, talk, no pun intended. DiFi says that she "regrets" that we've had all this discussion over the matter of enemy combatants.

King disagrees, and says that Tsarnaev deserves his battlefield promotion from "loser" to "important terrorist combatant," and that passing on the chance to mark him as such is passing on the chance to gather intelligence.

Can DiFi tell us about foreign involvement or the older Tsarnaev's contacts in Russia? No. She can not tell us specifics. "Conjecture would lead one to believe," she says, adding a bunch of conjecture about the brothers wanting to participate in a jihadist style action. DiFi says that the group that will be interrogating the younger Tsarnaev have demonstrated in the past that they can both gather intel and get convictions.

If so, I really don't know what the problem here is. But if everyone decides to simply sit back and do the most effective thing based on past performance and evaluation of results, well, you don't get to score any cheap political points. And if you're not scoring cheap political points, are you really American? It is the only product our nation manufactures now, besides the "War in Afghanistan."

King wants the intelligence! He wants it, he wants it, shut up!

Wallace asks about the FBI's previous investigation into the elder Tsarnaev, which resulted in the kid not being put on a watch list. King says that he has tremendous respect for the FBI, but that the FBI is terrible at their jobs.

"I don't want to Monday Morning Quarterback things," says King, fists fully up into the Monday Morning Center's backside, awaiting the snap.

DiFi says that the interrogators will do a good job and get the necessary information. She says that getting into a whole big thing about how their background or their religion or their connections played a role in their decision to attack the Boston marathon is not smart until we actually put together some facts about their background or their religion or their connections. I think that circumspection really is in order here: if it turns out that all the evidence points to the notion that this was just a pair of losers, we'll really regret telling the losers of the world that this was a good way to get world famous.

DiFi sort of implies that King was being a bit smeary of the American Muslim community, but he really, really wasn't. "99.9% of the Muslim community are upstanding Americans," or something like that is what King said.

What about locking down the whole city of Boston? Would people have maybe liked to have guns? DiFi says, "Oh, some may have, yes." But she maintains that people should not own assault weapons. Also, there were police all over Watertown that night, so she "doesn't think that's applicable."

King is asked about how the events in Boston color the immigration reform debate. King says that he doesn't think it should have a "severe impact" on the debate, but that people who are trying to immigrate from nations with a known terrorist element should receive extra vetting. King clearly wants to proceed with a debate on the issue, keep the discussion reasonable, and not table it just because these tragic events happened.

Wallace sets up the next segment by asking, "What did we learn [from Boston] about the terror threat and how to protect 'the Homeland?'" Well, it's been less than forty-eight hours since the suspect was apprehended, so the correct answer is: "Not a bloody thing, check back in a few weeks, okay?" But Sunday morning blather will not wait for time and wisdom and common sense, so instead we'll have former this-and-that Phillip Mudd and Philadelphia police chief Charles Ramsey (who used to be Chief of Police here in DC, and I don't think anyone around here misses him).

What has Ramsey learned from Boston. "It's a challenge," he says, because he is a genius. He says he has also learned that one has to "take steps to protect the public." Very glad he's coming to figure this out, that's cutting edge stuff from a chief of police.

Mudd says he is "not troubled" by what happened, and suspects that there "wasn't a dropped ball here," in terms of whether the security framework should have netted the Tsarnaev's in advance. Could this have been prevented? Mudd says that while more information may come out about their connections abroad, he suspects that what you have in these two brothers, are two people participating in a "closed radical circle," and that "breaking that circle" in an open society such as ours is "virtually impossible."

Wallace wants MOAR CONJECTURE and OMGZ SPECULATIONZ so PLS PLS TELL US: CAN WE HAZ AL QAEDA? Mudd says that the only connection to al Qaeda may be some shared ideologies but from an operational standpoint there is a glaring lack of evidence of connection. He cites the simple example of the way the brothers were insufficiently dressed to conceal their identities and says that if the brothers received some sort of operational training, he'd love to meet who did it, because "they were amateurs."

Wallace asks Ramsey about the lockdown and whether or not that was an over-reaction. Ramsey says that he might not have done it, but only because he'd not thought to have done it. In his estimation, the lockdown was "genius" and he doesn't understand the criticism. "It's a bold step and I'm not saying that you take it in every situation," he says, but he thought it was an appropriate step in this case.

The only bit of conjecture I'm willing to make in this matter is it sure seemed to me like the two times the investigation really jumped forward were when the public was out in force. The lockdown sure seemed appropriate for the time it was going on, I suppose that there's a policy debate to be had. But then, once Friday was headed into the evening, and the public was given permission to leave their homes, I wasn't that surprised when Tsarnaev was quickly found. Public eyes and ears were used pretty sparingly, but to great effect. And, wow, didn't Bostonians basically demonstrate how calm and responsible they were? No stories of panic-induced rashness. Under the circumstances, which had to have been crazy stressful, that was a fine demonstration of municipal wit-keeping, right?

Okay, well, the Happy Time Speculation Segment appears to be over, and Wallace is now more interested in "tradecraft," specifically what goes into making such a fast ID of the suspects. Mudd says that you start with "the explosion of video and photos" that enable law enforcement to get a firmer, clearer picture of crime scenes than was available a decade ago. From there, he says that releasing the right information to the public accelerated the investigative process.

Wallace was sort of angling for the answer to the question: how do you go from the raw material of the video to ID'ing the two suspects specifically, but Mudd doesn't provide an answer. Which is appropriate! He wasn't privy to that process.

Does Ramsey come away from the experience wishing he had more cameras all over downtown Philadelphia? He says he does. He also cites CCTV-mad London as an example of an ideal. That sort of surveillance state makes me nervous as hell, though.

Mudd says that he fears that "people are going to too quickly categorize this attack as terrorism," and his take is that this is more like "Columbine, where two people in a closed circle radicalize and then go out and commit murder."

"I would charge these guys as murderers, not terrorists," he says. Wallace says that given the whiffs and suggestions and hints and allegations of things that may have happened on trips to Russia how he can "write off" the possibility that this was terrorism. He says that he's not "writing it off." He's just categorizing the crime in this moment based upon his experience, which teaches him that this sort of activity is more akin to the Columbine example.

And now, highlights from the high-test blatherskite from Bill Kristol and Jane Harman and Michael Hayden and Juan Williams.

What is Jane Harman's takeaway? She says that our track record since 9/11 has been very good and while this is unfortunate that these guys found a hole in our security she nonetheless gives everyone high marks, suggests that there will be more bomb sniffing dogs next time, and believes that the suspect will be interrogated and tried effectively.

Hayden, asked for MOAR SPECULATIONZ on the TERRORIST CONNECTIONZ says, "We just don't know," and adds that Mudd's take is probably correct. As to larger questions of this being an attempt at "global jihad," that is something we have to find out.

Does Williams think that Tsarnaev belongs in the U.S. judicial system or as an enemy combatant. Williams says, DUH, JUDICIAL SYSTEM because of the whole Constitution thing and also mentions that when it comes to getting convictions, the military tribunals are the Tsarnaev Brothers of justice, pinheaded in their aggression but without competence or accomplishment. But let's have some disagreement with that, okay? Someone? Come on, this is Fox News Sunday!

Bill Kristol, amirite? "If we don't use the enemy combatant label for [Tsarnaev] who are we going to use it for?" I mean, just spitballing here, but maybe we just use it for "enemy combatants" and not some total loser? Harman is vigorously disagreeing and again reminding that the interrogation group that will be talking to Tsarnaev as soon as he has a throat again, presumably, "are going to get a lot of information."

Now Bill Kristol is demonstrably more angry at Jane Harman than he is at the people who killed three adults and a child in Boston. Let the record show, anyway. Not like you couldn't have seen that coming.

Will America become a CCTV-mad dystopia? Hayden says that this is a serious question, how much more privacy needs to be stolen to make people "marginally safer." His conclusion is that we're at the right place, in terms of surveillance. He also says that this tragedy -- "tragedy...not a catastrophe" -- is the "new normal."

Kristol says that he doesn't know how many Bostonians wanted to have guns, but he doesn't think that affects or impacts the gun safety debate. Harman says that she doesn't "know how much steeper a climb" it could be to getting some sort of gun safety legislation, and that the events in Boston "diluted the moment." She says that she hopes that "Rand Paul's ads against Susan Collins for having the courage to close the gun show loophole will be decried."

Williams says that he's not sure that this legislative loss will be a huge blow to Obama's agenda. Truly, there are already so many ways that the rest of his agenda can be undone! Kristol says it was a huge defeat for Obama who campaigned all around the country and then "had a meltdown" in the Rose Garden. He also says that Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey never made a public policy argument for their bill -- but the policy argument was the one that was had when background checks were implemented at points-of-purchase in the first place. Manchin-Toomey just expanded that to other points-of-purchase.

Harman gives a shout out to Rubio and McCain for not backing down on immigration reform in the light of Boston. Oh, I think that the House GOP have plenty of reform-killing options at their disposal, with or without Boston. Don't worry. Your long position on cynicism is doing just fine.


Oh, man, George Stephanopoulos has got the special music and titles and everything! TRAIL OF TERROR! Ominous piano arpeggios! Zoomy swoops on grainy photographs.

"What led these unassuming brothers to violence? Could it have been prevented? What is the right response? We get to the heart of all those questions, right now?" Oh, ha, I bet you $100 that you don't even come close to the heart of those questions!

Well, if anything, this will be a quick show to recap.

George Stephanopoulos assures us, "What an extraordinary week it has been." We need this sort of authoritative take, surely.

Anyway, ABC News reports the same stuff we heard already: the younger Tsarnaev is recovering, in serious condition, with a throat injury, can't be questioned at the moment, there will be a interrogation by a qualified and decorated team, prior to Mirandizing, at some point charges will be filed, et cetera. No evidence of accomplices, a broader plot, or a sleeper cell.

Pierre Thomas, who is reporting this, opines, "[The Tsarnaevs] were so disciplined." I'd be interested in any evidence that this is true, but so far it would seem that the extant evidence suggests a lack of discipline. You know, collecting a bunch of weapons doesn't make you disciplined.

New reporting: Officials are concerned by the sheer amount of ammunition and bomb-making materiel that the brothers seem to have stockpiled and the presumed concern is that more explosives may be sitting around somewhere.

(I have this sort of instinctive hunch that at some point, there will be an investigation into whether March 26 reports of explosions in nearby Hanover, Massachusetts were related to what the Tsarnaevs were doing.)

Okay, so now there is going to be a panel with legal analyst Dan Abrams, former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke, and former FBI agent Brad Garrett. Keep the speculation to responsible levels, guys. Don't go all Cliff Van Zandt on us.

Abrams explains the public safety exception to Miranda. This is quite useful:
ABRAMS: That's right. You heard Pierre talk about this Public Safety Exception. And basically, the Supreme Court has recognized that in some cases, if there's the possibility of a eminent threat, that you can ask limited questions without first reading someone their Miranda rights. And that's what they're saying here. Now, down the road, will someone challenge it and say, this shouldn't have happened? Sure. Courts may have to resolve the specifics in this case later, but there's no question that the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized this limited exception to reading someone their Miranda rights. STEPHANOPOULOS: Even -- even after a suspect has been in custody for a couple of days? ABRAMS: Well, that -- the you start getting into the questions, right? Because the Supreme Court case basically involved stopping a guy who had an empty holster, and they said, where's your gun? And he said, Oh, it's -- it's back there. And the question there is, can that little statement be admitted? The court said yes. When you're talking about two days, the questions become more difficult as to whether it's legally permissible. But, the FBI and this administration have clearly taken the position that you are allowed to ask these types of questions, even after the fact. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're also seeing calls from some Senators, Lindsey Graham and others, saying that instead of being tried in court, he should be treated as an enemy combatant? ABRAMS: Yeah, it's not going to happen for two reasons, first of all, he's a U.S. citizen, captured on U.S. soil. And the reality is, he couldn't be tried in a military tribunal anyway. The question is, could he be questioned as an enemy combatant? It's possible that he could be. But there seems to be no real reason to do that since you have that Miranda exception. They can ask these types of questions. It seems that that -- that would be foolish. And you really could hurt the case there, I think, by declaring him an enemy combatant.

Garrett says that the FBI's immediate responsibility is ensuring that there are no unexploded bombs out there in Boston and assuring that the Tsarnaev's do not have additional accomplices. Stephanopoulos asks about the FBI's previous contact with the elder brother.
GARRETT: There are hundreds of thousands of young adults in this country that visit extremist Islamic websites. He was one of them. And so the question is, what line do you draw? Do we continue investigation, or do we go and interview -- make a decision based on other intelligence that we're not going to pursue an active case against him? STEPHANOPOULOS: You're already seeing some -- some -- Congressman Peter King criticizing the FBI, saying this was a missed opportunity, they let him slip through their fingers? GARRETT: Well, that's great to say, but when you have literally hundreds of thousands of people you want to keep track of, you've got to prioritize. They're going to miss someone every once in awhile. And, the most important thing is, when you approach them, interview them, do their background, they may not have radicalized to the level of committing what we had on Monday. STEPHANOPOULOS: So, simply going to the websites wouldn't be enough? GARRETT: Absolutely not.

Clarke discusses how Chechens relate to the world of terrorism and global entanglements, noting that "Chechens have been involved with al-Qaeda since almost the beginning of al-Qaeda...fighting for al-Qaeda in Bosnia...involved in fighting against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan." But, he says, that the real question is "how do you tell when someone gets radicalized," and how the FBI can figure that out.

Clarke adds, "What I want to know is, what did the Russians do when he went back to Russia? They had already said they were interested in him, and then he goes back to Russian and spends over six months there. What did they do? Did they follow him around? That's a question we need an answer to."

Okay, this doesn't give much comfort.
CLARKE: But the issue here is, now that people have seen what two men can do with easily obtained materials, close down the city, get the president of the United States to show up. Other people around the country who have been radicalized have watched this. And they're going to wonder, is there a way now that I can do this?

That's why I think we were on the right track when we were letting these kids uncle call them "losers" on teevee over and over again, and have veered in the wrong direction by rewarding them with the distinction of being "enemy combatants." That's like giving these two an honorary Masters degree from the University of Violent Extremists.

Clarke goes on to note that one thing that's prevented these sorts of attacks is that would-be attackers perceive that they are hard to carry off. Unfortunately, they now look easy.

Clarke and Garrett both conclude that the brothers probably intended to execute further attacks, but got caught before they could do so. (Which hopefully adds back some layer of difficulty to people who are thinking about pursuing these attacks.)

Neil Diamond is singing "Sweet Caroline" at Fenway, and that is some nice-time, even though Fenway is the home of an American League baseball team, and the designated hitter is bullshit. What America needs in times of trouble, are pitchers who hit.

Now, here is Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who went to the same school of diction and elocution as former Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank. He says that "all the information he has" suggests that the brothers acted alone. He says that he hopes that the Feds take this case and "throws the book at" Tsarnaev. The implication there is that the Feds can impose capital punishment. Menino is very angry that these two kept the city locked down.

That said, he agrees that "at the time the decision was made" to lockdown the city, it was the right decision to make. "Boston did a great job that day," he says.

Menino also praises the FBI for circulating photos of the Tsarnaevs as effectively as they did, as once they were put in place, the investigation moved more quickly.

Is he concerned that there might be more unexploded bombs in the city? He says that these concerns are based on hearsay, but people should remain vigilant. Asked if he thinks that the Tsarnaevs might have attempted further attacks, Menino refuses to speculate. He praises the residents of Boston for about five more minutes.

Stephanopoulos asks a question that Menino cannot possibly know the answer to: "What more are you learning about these brothers and the key question of when they might have been -- you know, so many accounts, you talk to so many of their classmates who said they seemed like normal American kids for so long, but at some point they turned, became radicalized. What information have you all been able to develop on that? And is it you're working theory that the younger brother was kind of brainwashed or manipulated by the older brother?"

Menino decides he'll bite, and answers, "Yes, I think the older brother was really the leader, and the younger brother was, like you said, brainwashed by his brother, and he just was a follower."

Again, there's no way in the world Menino could know that.

Stephanopoulos asks if Menino's son, who is a police detective and Menino says, yeah, he's terrific but so are a lot of people.

Now we will have a roundtable discussion with House Homeland Security committee ranking member Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Senate Intelligence committee member Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Richard Haass, Martha Raddatz, and New Yorker EIC David Remnick. They will blather for about a half-hour.

Coats wants the suspect tried as an enemy combatant, because every loser with sociopathic tendencies could use a new hero to emulate. Thompson agrees. Or so it seems. I think he's only agreeing with the idea that he should be questioned without being Mirandized. "Well obviously there are some communication issues right now," says Thompson, "Because he can't talk. Obviously we can do some other things." What things?

Here's an important thing that people need to know about this "public safety exception" thing -- as Brian Beutler points out:

By the same token, Miranda rights aren’t conferred on a suspect at the moment an officer of the law reads them to him. They’re fundamental. And if Tsarnaev awakes in the hospital aware that he doesn’t have to say anything, and demands an attorney, the FBI ultimately can’t deny him one.

Back to Thompson, he now makes it clear that the "enemy combatant" distinction should not be applied, and now Coats is backtracking, saying only if there's a link that exists between the Tsarnaev's and some group.

Raddatz says law enforcement is focused on whether there is an overseas connection, and whether or not one of the brothers received some sort of training. There are "missing years" in the elder brother's life that are receiving scrutiny.

Remnick says that the only reason the brothers' parents have moved back to Dagestan is because the father is "very sick" and wants to die there, because that's Dagestan's motto: "Come here and die, because why not!" Stephanopoulos says that statements from extremists in Dagestan have made it clear that their beef is with Russia, and not the United States, because presumably they do not want a world of hurt.

He goes on to say, "I mean if in fact, its Chechnyan nationalism or some kind of fantastical global jihad that they're interested in, there's no sense that these kids are well read in this, especially the younger brother...They're highly deluded. And so the connection between their rather idiotic interests and the evil acts that they carried out is still at this point a mystery."

Haass says, "This is not a one-off, this is a glimpse of the future." Awesome. Did I mention that I'm going to Toronto on vacation this summer? Should I just stay there? And could America make itself safer by serving poutine more often?

Haass and Coats look enough like each other that they could star in some sort of "Parent Trap" movie, though it would be a weird sort of movie, in which the "parents" would obviously be more concerned with the fact that their kids was an adult looking man with a terrible combover.

David Remnick thinks that Col Allan and the New York Post are garbage.
REMNICK: Outrageous. It's outrageous behavior. Look I have some sympathy for what happened to CNN. They're on all day long and they got legitimate, what they thought were legitimate sources telling them that there was an arrest. They turned out to be wrong, they corrected their mistake. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes. This is something more pernicious. This is slapping on the front page of the newspaper with a wide circulation of something not confirmed at all, and it harms people's lives and I give that guy a lot of credit to go on television and talk to you. That takes courage.

Ha, yes, one good thing you can say about CNN is, "As bad as you guys are, you aren't actual bastard-trash, so congratulations!"

Remnick says that the Post should "take some responsibility and apologize," but ha, ha. That probably won't happen.

Raddatz says, "I take the lesson of a former intelligence officer who said, when I was a young man my dad took me deer hunting. And we were laying there and looked out and my dad turned to me and he said, son, when you go deer hunting, everything starts looking like a deer." That makes sense. The people on the teevee have to keep talking. The question is, does what they are saying convey the notion that they are listening? Or is it just blind, reflexive response to stimulus. Because at one point, CNN was doing stuff like, "There is a dog. It is barking. I don't know why the dog is barking."

Thompson says that the economics of locking down a whole city, in terms of lost money, give the terrorists a win, but if there had been other attacks, there would probably be second guessing as to the wisdom of not locking down the city. Remnick thinks that this was thus a "great success for terrorists." I am not sure that's entirely true. The panel, however, seems to agree.

I can haz immigration reform?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator you were talking about the effect on legislation, we certainly can't legislate a lot of these issues. But one of the suggestions we've seen from one of your colleagues, Senator Charles Grassley, of Iowa, is that we should put the Immigration Reform effort on hold until we know a lot more. COATS: I agree with Senator Grassley. STEPHANOPOULOS: Why? COATS: You usually end up with bad policy if you do it in an emotional way or an emotional reaction. We saw some things post-9/11 that were enacted that if we had had a little bit more rational time to think this through, perhaps we wouldn't have had some of the pushback on it. But more importantly, immigration is an issue that has dramatic economic effect on Americans. It has national security implications. I think stepping back just a little bit and putting it on hold, for instance, we have a bigger issue than immigration in front of us. And that's our debt deficit and it's got to get solved. STEPHANOPOULOS: You're saying -- (CROSSTALK) COATS: We have a broken system, it needs to be reformed. But I'm afraid we'll rush to some judgments relative to immigration and how it's processed. So let's do it in a rational way rather than an emotional way.

Not sure what Coats is saying. Scuttling the immigration reform bill is what would be the "emotional reaction" that leads to bad policy. And if they'd taken more time to think things through after 9/11, I sort of think that there would have been MORE PUSHBACK against some of the laws that were re-enacted. One thing that you can't say about the PATRIOT ACT is that it gets more appealing, the longer you apply rational thought to it. It's a law forged in the fire of dumb emotional panic.

Remnick disagrees: "I think the idea of delaying immigration reform, if you ask anybody involved with immigration, including the immigrants themselves, this is a horrible idea. To take this isolated, horrible, violent, evil incident and make it stand for larger politics and put immigration reform, put the brakes on it."

So does Thompson: "To put it on hold is not in the best interests of the country."

Haass also disagrees: "One of the lessons of this incident, we need to integrate all Americans into this society. We want to mainstream. Rather than delaying the bill, I actually think we should move it even faster. This is the time, we thought about this for years. Economically but also in terms of our national security, this bill will help make America safer because more Americans will come into the mainstream, will no longer be forced to live in some twilight, shadowed area. That's one of the lessons we ought to take from this. Alienated, young people, not part of the mainstream fully, dangerous thing."

Coats now says that all he was trying to do was suggest we push it back for a few months.

Okay, time to jump into the stink.


The one thing that Meet The Press DOES have going for it is that Pete Williams will be here today, and with him comes the strongest sourcing and best news judgment than anyone managed to muster all week. Michael Leiter is also here, and he was more responsible than most of the people MSNBC kept cutting to, seeking speculative information. Hopefully, we'll not see Clint Van Zandt and Jim Cavanaugh -- who were unfortunately a pair of witless MSNBC mainstays this week -- on teevee to discuss matters of importance ever again.

First here's Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Whatcha know, Deval? He says he thinks that the threat has past, but that law enforcement continues their investigation. There isn't "any basis for concern" in terms of imminent threats.

Did the younger brother make a suicide attempt? Patrick doesn't know.

Is the younger brother able to make a statement? Patrick doesn't know.

Is Patrick concerned that something was missed, prior to the attack. Sure. He has a lot of questions, they are being pursued, he wants investigators to have the space to work, build the case from "facts up," and not proceed from the attractive sounding theories of Sunday morning talk show hosts.

Does Patrick think that the suspect should be tried in the criminal justice system or as an "enemy combatant." He says he trusts the Attorney General to make that call. He says that the inter-agency collaboration among various law enforcement agencies was "seamless" and impressive to witness.

Patrick concludes by saying that it's "really important that civic rituals like the marathon" continue, that we do not surrender to terror, and that we maintain a vigilance that is not fearful. He says that we should reflect on the many ways people "turned to each other and not on each other."

Okay, now we will panel our faces off with Pete Williams, Michael Leiter, Representative Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), and former secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will be along at some point as well.

What connections do the suspect have with foreign terrorists? Pete Williams says:
Well, we don't know the answer to that question. The big gap here is what was the older brother doing for six months in Russia last year? He leaves in January, he arrives in July. And the Russians have told the F.B.I. that they were a little worried about him. But what was he doing during all that time in Russia?

His father says he was visiting him, that he went to see his family, that he went to renew his Russian passport while he was waiting to get American citizenship. He was here as a lawful permanent resident. But did he-- the thing, I think, that's the biggest question for investigators now is A) you know, why did he turn this way?

But B) where did he get his expertise in explosives? Where did he practice them? It seems really unlikely that these two bombs successfully were detonated without some practice runs. Where'd he learn to do that? Where did he practice it? Those are the big questions

For those practice runs, again, I have a very eerie and sick feeling that maybe there is a connection to the mysterious explosions that took place a few weeks ago in Hanover, Massachusetts.

What about the evidence that the older brother had "dropped out of society" and become involved in radical elements abroad. Rogers notes that the FBI had previously done some due diligence to try to crack that nut, they were collaborating with a "foreign intelligence service," that collaboration ended and so did the case work. There is a six month period of time where the elder brother is sort of off the grid that could prove to be important in explaining the "why" of what happened.
LEITER: A lot of people think this is an atypical story involving people who've lived here for a long time, are very stable, and then become radicalized. And regrettably, isn't. In the Times Square bombing, we had a case where someone had lived here for 13 years, had an MBA, had worked for an American company, and then tried to bomb Times Square. The challenge here, David, is that there are lots and lots of people who go through these crises and become more radicalized. But very, very few of them actually become mobilized and become terrorists. And that's an incredibly hard piece for the F.B.I. and others.

Chertoff adds, "As I look back over this episode, they're going to want to make sure that a ball wasn't dropped, either domestically or overseas."

Leiter says, "It's not clear to me that the report in to the F.B.I. actually said he was associated with a terrorist group. That he might have been radicalized. But that's really very different and might raise a-- it's not maybe a yellow flag, but I don't think a red flag to the F.B.I."

Rogers isn't sure that the FBI missed anything, they seemed to do due diligence, and they came up with nothing, and you can't do anything with nothing. They were, to his estimation "prudent and thorough" prior to the elder brother's departure, and it's those missing months that will likely end up mattering.

Pete Williams explains the law:

WILLIAMS: He cannot be tried as an enemy combatant in a military tribunal. Because that law was changed by The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 that says you can't do that to an American citizen.

What some advocates, Republicans, are saying, such as Lindsey Graham are, they say, "We understand he's going to be tried in civilian court. But start the questioning, treat him as an enemy combatant under the law of war, question him by intelligence people, get all the intel you can, then turn him over to the civilian authorities." That's what they advocate.

That's not going to happen, the administration has decided. He'll be questioned first by this special group that's been set up in the last couple of years in terror cases called The High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, F.B.I., C.I.A., D.O.D.. They will question him without giving him his Miranda warning. They don't have a long time to do that, probably no more than maybe a day or so. Then he'll be given his Miranda warning. And we'll see if he continues to talk. In other terrorism cases, surprisingly, these people do keep talking.

Rogers supports the whole use of the public safety exception, and believes that the FBI is on the right course. He is worried that "outside groups" are going to pressure a Mirandization, but I think he's got a real overestimation of the strength of those sorts of outside groups.

"It was only a matter of time that, one of these days, a plot like this would be successful," says Chertoff, who adds, "I don't think it calls for a radical change in our strategy."

Now Dick Durbin is here. He disagrees vehemently with Mitch McConnell's contention that "we have fallen into a place of complacency." He also adds some fun facts: "Since 9-11, we have had hundreds, literally hundreds of terrorism cases successfully prosecuted through our court system. A handful, six cases, have gone through military commissions."

Durbin talks about the immigration bill, which he brings up unprompted:

DURBIN: There are four specific provisions in this immigration reform bill that will make America safer. We are going to have a stronger border with Mexico. We are going to have 11 million people come forward and have an opportunity to register with our government out of the shadows. We are going to have verification of employment in the workplace. And we're finally going to have a system when we can track visa holders who visit the United States to make sure that they leave when they're supposed to. So this is part of the ongoing conversation about a safer America. And the immigration reform bill moves us closer.

Durbin opposes Lindsey Graham's attempt to give Tsarnaev an unearned battlefield promotion: "Hundreds, literally hundreds of terrorists, those accused of terrorism, have been successfully prosecuted and imprisoned in the United States using the same process that's being used in this case in Boston. The handful, Liz Cheney and others, who are calling for military commissions, have to explain to us why, since 9-11, only six times have we used military commissions."

Liz Cheney's explanation would be that she's using cheap fearmongering to score cheap political points, but that's pretty obvious to everyone.

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