Scare Tactics?

Is it just me, or has the intelligence community been reporting a lot of vague concerns lately about Al-Qaeda being alive and well? Between Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's "gut feelings," and daily media reports about how Al-Qaeda is a zillion times stronger than it was before 9/11, why is it necessary for them to tell Americans that the threat is still out there?

One example: On Tuesday, a US intelligence report warned that "Al-Qaeda has regrouped in its Pakistani 'safe haven' and is determined to inflict mass casualties through new attacks on the United States" and that it "remains bent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear and biological arms, and 'would not hesitate to use them' if it develops the capability." (emphasis added).

After reading this, I really had to wonder whether I was reading the Onion. A more insightful article would have been "the sun will rise at some point tomorrow" or "gang violence will continue to affect inner city youth." I mean, come on, really? You mean Al-Qaeda, which is a terrorist organization, is determined to kill a lot of people, acquire weapons, and they won't hesitate to use them? Wow. No kidding. You mean they haven't decided to put down their arms and make peace with the U.S.? Whoa, this is serious news.

What's the purpose behind these vague (and painfully obvious) warnings? I know that I don't need them-- I'm well aware that terrorists are out to get me. But maybe others aren't as paranoid as me: someone suggested to me today that Americans have become "complacent" because the U.S. has not experienced any acts of terrorism in the past six years. Though I doubted the accuracy of the observation, it occurred to me that the government might agree with it. Perhaps that's what's behind all of these reports-- the government needs to send out a "wake-up call" to people.

Of course, it could just be the intelligence community trying to cover their asses in case something actually does happen this summer. But I hope not-- I'd like to believe our spies are a little better than that.