Saturday, February 11, 2006

"Two sticks, a dash and a cake with a stick down"

Does anyone remember that quote, "Two sticks, a dash and a cake with a stick down"?  That was the coded message that al Qaeda used to specify the date for the attacks that took place on September 11, 2001.  Why did they not merely say "September 11," which would have been easier to understand?  

It seems that the only way to explain that would be to assume that they were worried that their communications might be intercepted, by, say, some kind of wiretap.  Here is the quote:
It was hijacker Mohammed Atta who notified Binalsibh after Moussaoui''s capture in a coded telephone message, "two sticks, a dash, and a cake with a stick down", meaning that the fateful day would be September 11. Thus, it was Atta who chose the date.
That was in 2001, and this is 2006, so perhaps that is one of those mildly interesting but unimportant details.  But in 2006, we are supposed to believe that the public discussion of wiretaps has given valuable information to the enemy.  

Obviously, nobody wants to give valuable information to the enemy.  That would be bad.  But if the enemy was already speaking in code in 2001, before the public discussion of wiretaps, isn't it true that they already knew that their communications might be intercepted?  

On a related note, there are people who think that warrantless wiretaps are not really so bad, arguing that innocent people have nothing to hide.  Why would an innocent person care if their phone is tapped?  To that I say, if Mr. Bush is innocent, why would he care if Congress investigates him?  He has nothing to hide.  Terrorists already know that their communications might be intercepted.   Evidently, they've known that for a long time.   If there are specific details about sources and methods that need to be kept secret, that can be handled in closed-door sessions.  There has been disagreement about whether the NSA wiretap program is legal, but plenty of informed observers have given reason to think that it is not.   It is clear that merely briefing members of Congress does not provide sufficient protection, given that this Administration is prone to selective release of information.  A full investigation is needed.  

Currently, there is consideration of additional legislation that would change the FISA law to make the program "more workable," whatever that means.  Presumably, it would make the program legal.  And the Administration seems more willing to brief Congress on the program.  But even if the law is changed, and briefings are given from now on, we still need to know if the wiretap program was illegal from the time of its initiation.  If so, impeachment may be in order.