A cynical and suspicious observer might question the veracity and timing of the latest "credible but unconfirmed" terrorist threat. These terrorist threats emerge periodically, jacking up fear levels, although they never seem to pan out. True, a terrorist attack is always possible and could come at any time. But scaring the American people based on unconfirmed, nebulous rumors never struck me as very productive. I mean, what are we supposed to do about them?
A cynical and suspicious observer might believe that the military and national security complex gains substantial benefits from keeping fear levels high. There are trillions of dollars and millions of jobs in defense and homeland security. A Washington Post investigation in 2010 found:
- Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.
- An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.
If Americans become complacent because there hasn't been a major terrorist strike in this country in the last ten years, there could be pressure to pare back on national and homeland security, threatening jobs and funding.
A cynical and suspicious observer might remember the many unfounded terrorist scares during the years of the Bush Administration, especially the conveniently timed ones that seemed to pop up during election season.
A cynical and suspicious observer might think that right-wing operatives in the national security chain of command might desire a Republican victory over President Barack Obama in 2012. Some of them might have felt it advantageous to foment a terror scare on Thursday, flooding the news cycles with terrorist speculation, and distracting from the president's important jobs speech in front of a joint session of Congress.
Thank goodness I'm not a cynical or suspicious observer, because those kind of conspiratorial thoughts never crossed my mind.