3small25A Pretty Safe Bet

   by

            Gerard P. Keenan

It seems after every disaster, whether natural, man-made, or accidental, the spin-doctors come out of the gate with statements ruling out terrorism. That terrorism was not the cause in the majority of cases is true – but this has not been true in all of them.

The thinking behind these statements is understandable and well-intentioned – no one wants mass panic. Yet I find them darkly humorous; like the statement made shortly following the recent disaster at the BP refinery in Texas.

Part of the headline from the Houston Chronicle of March 25th illustrates this quite well – “Terrorism ruled out in blast, but may take a year to find cause”. What I

would like explained is this; if it may take a year to find the actual cause, then how can terrorism be immediately ruled out as a possible cause before an investigation is even opened? Does this mean that even the possibility of a terrorist act will be completely ignored in the investigation? What if the investigation can not turn up any other causes; leaving terrorism the only possibility left?

Less than 24 hours after the explosion, spokesmen from BP, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were already discounting reported claims of responsibility by two Islamic terrorist groups – the Al Qaeda Organization for Holy War in the United States of America and the Jund al-Sham Organization (Organization of Soldiers of the Levant). The Jund al-Sham has also claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on March 19th in Qatar that killed one and injured 12, as well as the attack in the Egyptian resort of Taba in October that killed 34 and injured over 100 (an attack that has also been claimed by at least three other Islamist groups).

It is not unusual for two or more groups to claim responsibility for the same attack. It is also not unusual for Islamist groups to claim responsibility for incidents that are, in fact, purely accidental. While some claims are obviously far-fetched, enough people will still believe them to achieve the atmosphere of fear and terror that is the goal of all terror groups.

Jund al-Sham has vowed many times to carry out attacks on oil installations, churches and Western military bases in the Middle East. Other groups have made similar threats – and many have been carried out. Is it such a stretch to consider these threats in

any investigation; if for no other reason than to officially and conclusively rule out a terror attack? I see nothing to be gained by summarily dismissing any possibility before an investigation can actually eliminate it.

It is irresponsible for federal officials to immediately dismiss any possibility at all before even the most preliminary investigation has begun. Statements like this are speculation or personal opinion or, more likely, instructions from above.

It certainly does nothing to enhance the image or credibility of our intelligence agencies, and those charged with our security, when the result of an investigation does conclude it was a terrorist attack. These agencies have already suffered some loss of credibility since 9/11. Making statements like this, only to be proven wrong later, will certainly do nothing to earn them the trust of the American people that is so necessary for them to carry out their tasks effectively.

A little more honesty would not go amiss in situations like the BP refinery explosion. Instead of dismissing the possibility of a terror attack out-of-hand, then claiming the cause is unknown while investigating for a cause other than terrorism, they should be up-front and simply state they will not know the cause until the investigation is completed.

It is a pretty safe bet that the BP explosion was not the result of terrorist action, but that is still not reason enough to simply dismiss the possibility. I prefer to trust my safety and security, and that of my family and this country, to the conclusive results of a thorough investigation – not to “a pretty safe bet.”


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