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Saturday, June 03, 2006


Alleged journalism

Here's an AP story on arrests today in Canada:
Canadian police foiled a homegrown terrorist attack by arresting 17 suspects, apparently inspired by al-Qaida, who obtained three times the amount of explosives used in the Oklahoma City bombing, officials said Saturday.
Of course, you can only "foil an attack" if you have actual criminals, not just suspects. Now if these 17 suspects had actually "obtained" all those explosives, I wouldn't quibble. But four paragraphs later in the article, we learn that "the group had taken steps to acquire three tons of ammonium nitrate and other bomb-making materials." From what we know from reading the article, those "steps" might have consisted of nothing more than typing "ammonium nitrate" into Google.

Are these real terrorists with a real plot? Quite possibly. But the rush to judgement and to convincing the public that a "terrorist attack" has been "foiled" is, from my reading of the evidence available to AP, quite unjustified (but hardly unexpected).

Update: This is a very strange story. On CNN tonight, the story has been playing like this: the voice-over reporter says the suspects "tried to get" 3 tons of ammonium nitrate. But then they cut to a video of a Canadian policeman, saying that 3 tons "were delivered" to the suspects. Given that, why does that reporter just say they "tried to get" it? Strange.

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