75 Cents' Worth of Civic Irresponsibility
Contrast with the Times' top-right story this morning:
Security in and around New York City's subways was sharply increased yesterday after city officials said they were notified by federal authorities in Washington of a terrorist threat that for the first time specifically named the city's transit system. Patrols were increased last night on New York's subway system. The measures were announced by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, along with Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and the head of the New York F.B.I. office, Mark J. Mershon, after an American military operation with the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. in Iraq yesterday and Wednesday, according to law enforcement officials. The operation, the officials said, was aimed at disrupting the threat. Some officials in Washington, in interviews last night, played down the nature of the threat. While not entirely dismissing it, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security described it as "specific yet noncredible," adding that the intelligence community had concluded that the information was of "doubtful credibility." Several law enforcement officials said an investigation had yet to corroborate any of the details. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the operation in Iraq resulted in two people being taken into custody. They said a third was being sought. Information about the threat, the officials said, came to light last weekend from an intelligence source who told federal authorities that the three men in Iraq had planned to meet with other operatives in New York. One official said the group would number about a dozen. Another official said the total was closer to 20 people involved. The men planned to use strollers, briefcases and packages to hide a number of bombs that they planned to detonate on the subways. "It was a conspiracy involving more than a dozen people aimed at delivering a number of devices into the subway," one of the officials said. One official said the information suggested an attack could happen as early as today; another pointed to the middle of the month.
It's a "disse-disse" story, as the Brazilians say--"he said she said"--at best, and smells suspiciously like last year's "credible threat" against Prudential in Newark and Citi in midtown, with all the well-planned media events accompanying it--Remember how they kept the Pakistani agents who found that computer up til the wee hours so CNN could package their live interviews with the staged media events down on Wall St., all in prime time? This time it was Bush's "Islamofascist" speech and "we have foiled 10 plots" claim. What fucking bullshit.
And here, according to good old New York One the Homeland Security folks are saying Bloomberg "made a mistake" calling out the Hercules cops, causing him to make a talking head appearance "defending" the decision. I'm not a big fan of Bloomberg's--him riding in the limo with Bush at the GOP convention here, but trying to hide it from the cameras, was unforgivable hypocrisy--but it was good to see him on the subway this morning. I sure as hell have a lot more confidence in him and Ray Kelly than I do in Bush's patronage appointments, just as I have a lot more faith in the integrity of Bloomberg News than I do in Rupert Murdoch's formula for circulation success: tits, terror, and cooked circ stats.
Oddly, I saw just one cop all day, even though I passed right through Grand Central. And the cop I saw was standing by the exit of my home stop at the Brooklyn Museum, scrutinizing people LEAVING the subway. Duh. I did walk from one appointment in the West 20s to another in the East 40s mainly out of paranoia, though partly to do some Starbuck's hopping to kill time.
What did give me pause was a guy dressed in military camouflage, without any insignia I could see, carrying two large duffels down the escalator at Grand Central. I'm thinking Travis Bickle and Timothy McVeigh. Not a cop in sight. Probably some poor slob of a guardsman called out from Hicksville, Lone Guy Land to stand around with his finger on the trigger of an empty M-16. But still. Gave me the creeps.
The slimiest thing? The Daily News changed its headline, on its Web site, from the morning's screaming declaration to the properly interrogatory version below, without noting the change. At least the Post stuck with its cover the whole day.
Notice how the headline revisionist goes too far in the other direction, rying to appease with the humorous reference to "rubber baby buggy bumpers," that famous old tongue-twister. I'm not laughing. Are you? I'm never reading the News or Post again. And I'm framing those covers to remind me forever who the enemies of our profession are: the smug and recklesss purveyors of exploitative infotainment.