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Old 12-04-2004, 12:34 PM
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Tommy Thompson: Why don't terrorists poison us? It'd be so easy!


Departing Secretary of HHS Tommy Thompson said this:
Quote:
"For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do," Thompson said. "We are importing a lot of food from the Middle East, and it would be easy to tamper with that."
From: Newsday

Does anyone else thing this is a really, really stupid thing to say? Granted, it's an easy idea to come up with independently. But wouldn't it be smarter to just work hard quietly behind the scenes to ensure our food supply is as safe as possible, as opposed to publicly pointing out our vulnerable areas?

I admit I am biased against Thompson, having suffered under his Governorship and subsequent debt before he fled the state. But I still think I'd consider this stupid if said by anyone else.
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Old 12-04-2004, 12:49 PM
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Yeah, I'm with you, Qadgop! I couldn't believe anyone with such a high profile could say anything so obviously idiotic. I'm sure he thinks he's putting pressure on the government to address the problem, but I think the potential is much greater for disasterous harm to be the result rather than any good.

And of course, it gets trumpeted all over the world just to make sure every Tom, Dick and Harry with a grudge against the U.S. gets the message.
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Old 12-04-2004, 12:53 PM
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Yes, that is profoundly stupid. I've witnessed and read many instances of idiocy since 9/11 such as Senator Blabmeister describing how "in the event of a serious problem at (insert critical infrastructure point x) we will switch all operations to ...". Thanks, asshole. Were someone seeking to damage x, now they can also work on the backup plan.

Don't forget Sam and Suzy Talkinghead on the 6 o'clock bleat: Tomorrow, Marines are planning a surprise attack on... Surprise, this. Why not just bring in John Madden with a picture of the area and let him scribble all over it so the enemy knows every aspect of the mission? Idiots.
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  #4  
Old 12-04-2004, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan
Does anyone else thing this is a really, really stupid thing to say?
There were some who talked about terrorists flying airplanes into tall buildings prior to 9/11, and no one in the upper echelons of government took it seriously. It was far easier to ignore the potential, and just hope it went away. The same thing appears to be happening now with respect to our ports and food supply. While it may have been stupid for Thompson to be so explicit, it would have been far stupider for him to allow such an obvious problem to be swept under the rug for lack of political willpower.
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Old 12-04-2004, 12:55 PM
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It's just another Bushco scare tactic.

Why do the bad guys need to attack us again at all?

Look at all that has changed because of one attack.
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Old 12-04-2004, 12:55 PM
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Or maybe the food supply is actually very secure, and he's luring them into an attack that will fail.....

Nah, I don't believe it either.
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Old 12-04-2004, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Reeder
It's just another Bushco scare tactic.
I'm not all too happy about the "tactics" being used with Homeland Security© either, but the threat is very real.
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Old 12-04-2004, 02:49 PM
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I wonder if this will be an excuse to "protect" our food supply by banning all food imports from the Middle East, coincidentally removing competitions for our homegrown red white and blue patriotic 100% American farmers?
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Old 12-04-2004, 03:03 PM
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"You know, for the life of me, I can't understand why the terrorists haven't gone after the Internet purveyors of penile and breast enlargement products, Viagra and other treatments for erectile disfunction, credit repair, and non-traditional college degree programs. It would be so easy to do, and it would have such a devastating impact on our country; plus, many of those fine beacons of our modern Western civilization--I speak here especially of the penis and breast enlargement and erectile disfunction treatments--are just the sorts of things those puritanical, intolerant savages would hate the most."
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Old 12-04-2004, 03:04 PM
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This would be slightly less inane if it were not for two things:

1) Thompson is the outgoing Secretary. Wasn't there a convenient time to bring this up during, say, the last four years when he might have contributed to a solution?

2) As threats go, adulterating food imports from the Middle East is, well, pretty lame. We do not import a lot of food from the Middle East. Total food imports total less than 10% of domestic consumption, most of which is Mexican produce, Australian and South American beef, Pacific fish, and a slew of boutique items for the wine-and-cheese crowd. See http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications...01/fau6601.pdf for details
(Yes, it's a pdf, but small).

Inflating this to a threat worth discussing in public is a measure of how desperate some people are to be seen as serious about terrorism when they are alarmingly short of ideas. When we secure our oil refineries to the point where a determined boy scout troop couldn't attack them, I'll worry about pernicious poison pistachios and back Thompson for Secretary of Homeland Hummus.
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Old 12-04-2004, 03:52 PM
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As Reeder noted, it's just another scare tactic to keep the populace fearful.

Scared voters are the easiest to manipulate...
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  #12  
Old 12-04-2004, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Revtim
Or maybe the food supply is actually very secure, and he's luring them into an attack that will fail.....

Nah, I don't believe it either.
Please, Mr. Terrorist, don't try to put Botulinum toxin in our water supply! (Was worried before I Googled it, but the link answered my unanswered questions about the toxin's hardiness, which granted, I suspected the hardiness wasn't all that great due to it being such a huge molecule.)
  #13  
Old 12-04-2004, 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Ludovic
Please, Mr. Terrorist, don't try to put Botulinum toxin in our water supply! (Was worried before I Googled it, but the link answered my unanswered questions about the toxin's hardiness...)
The question here is not 'how many ways can we dream up that won't work' but, 'how many ways are there that might work', and how can we prevent evil-doers from employing them?
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Old 12-04-2004, 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by MEBuckner
"You know, for the life of me, I can't understand why the terrorists haven't gone after the Internet purveyors of penile and breast enlargement products, Viagra and other treatments for erectile disfunction,
Patience is your friend. Rome was not build in one day either.

Quote:
credit repair,
No worries there. Only a few banks to buy left and we are ready for business.

Quote:
and non-traditional college degree programs.
No thank you, we have already too much of our own crappy stuff in that department.

Quote:
It would be so easy to do,
You sound like my uncle... He always finds everything easy that I am too lazy for to even think about doing.

Quote:
and it would have such a devastating impact on our country; plus, many of those fine beacons of our modern Western civilization--I speak here especially of the penis and breast enlargement and erectile disfunction treatments--are just the sorts of things those puritanical, intolerant savages would hate the most."
No, no and NO... Such a misguided, ignorant, typical Western view once again.
We know that we don't need credit cards to pay for all these tools to make our 72 Virgins beauty queens and us their eternal virile lovers.


Salaam. A
  #15  
Old 12-04-2004, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by ParentalAdvisory
I'm not all too happy about the "tactics" being used with Homeland Security© either, but the threat is very real.
So, I'm not supposed to think critically about anything they say, is that it?
  #16  
Old 12-04-2004, 07:37 PM
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The shame is Qadgop posted a valid issue, until a few of the usual suspects came along and hijacked yet another decent thread.
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Old 12-04-2004, 09:44 PM
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I dunno. Do we really think Tommy Thompson has come up with a novel approach to terrorism that the terrorists haven't thought of yet??
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Old 12-04-2004, 10:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan
Departing Secretary of HHS Tommy Thompson said this:

From: Newsday

Does anyone else thing this is a really, really stupid thing to say? Granted, it's an easy idea to come up with independently. But wouldn't it be smarter to just work hard quietly behind the scenes to ensure our food supply is as safe as possible, as opposed to publicly pointing out our vulnerable areas.
Oddly enough QtM I was thinking this very thing, until I saw the picture of him accompanying the article, and I thought to myself "My God what an awful dye job, it looks like he's using shoepolish! Is he that clueless?" and thinking on the matter further, I decided that he was.

I'm sure the owners of the thousands and thousands of successful Middle Eastern restaurants all over the US will be infinitely grateful to him for his little parting bot mot.

Quote:
The former Wisconsin governor, addressing reporters, raised eyebrows when he remarked: "I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do. And we're importing a lot of food from the Middle East, and it would be easy to tamper with that."
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Old 12-04-2004, 10:46 PM
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Originally Posted by astro
bot mot
Arse?
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Old 12-04-2004, 10:56 PM
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hmmm, dances, I couldn't tell if you were referring to me or not. I was simply agreeing in a humorous way to the idea proposed that it could have been a way to trick terrorists into doing something stupid.

That said, to answer the OP, I don't think it was a really, really stupid to say, merely a run of the mill stupid one. On average, yeah, it would tend to alert our enemies to a previously unknown vulnerablity.

OTOH, they probably know about it already, maybe even our organizational unpreparedness for it.

And also, what if there had been a major news story that the head of the CIA for instance was terribly concerned about planes running into tall buildings? Maybe Al Qaeda might have reconsidered its plans thinking it was being watched more closely?

I dunno, but yeah, not the smartest thing to say.
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Old 12-04-2004, 10:58 PM
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Arse?
The t and the n, so different, and yet so similar to the lexically dyslexic.
  #22  
Old 12-05-2004, 12:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Netbrian
I wonder if this will be an excuse to "protect" our food supply by banning all food imports from the Middle East, coincidentally removing competitions for our homegrown red white and blue patriotic 100% American farmers?
Ding! Ding! We have a winner! Not the family farmers, of course, but the big corp farmers, who often run their farms with the same environmentally friendly mentality as a strip mine in the 1950s. It'll allow us to throw up some weasel worded excuse to delay sanctions from the WTO and others while we throw up all kinds of tariffs and sanctions against imported foodstuffs.
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  #23  
Old 12-05-2004, 05:57 AM
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I figure any decent terrorist worth his salt has already figured out dozens, if not hundreds, of ways to attack this country. And odds are that attacking the food supply has already been picked up among the so-called 'chatter' that intelligence agencies are supposedly listening to.
  #24  
Old 12-05-2004, 06:26 AM
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I figure any decent terrorist worth his salt has already figured out dozens, if not hundreds, of ways to attack this country.
Of course. But having enough normal intellect and the ability to reason normally does not keep the gullible population's focus on Red Middle Eastern Terrorist Alert, does it?
I can only agree with the comment that the US citizens of M-E descent and especially the shop- restaurant- whatever businesspeople among them will be very pleased by this new attack. Divide and rule, I say.

Quote:
And odds are that attacking the food supply has already been picked up among the so-called 'chatter' that intelligence agencies are supposedly listening to.
I would be surprized if there are more then a few people in the US "intelligence" who can even understand this so called "chatter".
I remember to have heard that right after 9/11 the very few they had were suddenly "suspects" and hence were "sifted out". And then we don't even talk about all the other languages and all the Arabic dialects.

I would take that "chatter listening" with a few tons of salt, if I were you. "chatter" listening led the US missiles, bombs and other innocent war toys all too often to where no "target" was visible yet quite a few civilians peacefully doing their daily business.
It is for us also a continious cause of amazement that these Arabic and other language skilled people inside the US "intelligence" after all these years then still don't manage to have gained one single shred of insight and knowledge about the functions of the societies and civilisation they so called listen to day and night.
Amazing. Really. (The same can count for far too much of the so called "M-E scholars" in the USA. Not surprizing to me however when looking at US university curriculums regarding that study.)
Like I always say in cases like this: If the US "intelligence" could get rid of its arrogance, it would immediately recognize the need to send their people to a few years training within the Mossad.


Salaam. A
  #25  
Old 12-05-2004, 10:13 AM
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The timing of Thompson's speech was wrong for it to have been solely another example of the administration's scaremongering. This was a prating shot, and likely reflected Thompson's frustration with the slow pace of progress in securing our ports.
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Old 12-05-2004, 10:15 AM
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parting shot
  #27  
Old 12-05-2004, 11:01 AM
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Hm. Parting shot because he's unhappy with the current administration's action/lack of action in this area? Trying to goad them into action as he's walking out the door? Establishing the possibility of being able to say a great big "I told you so!" at a future date?

I'm rethinking my position as to whether what Thompson did was stupid or not. I don't think it was wise, but I'm no longer sure it was stupid.

Thanks, gang!
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Old 12-05-2004, 12:21 PM
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Then why doesn't he just come out and say, "You know, I've been telling this Administration for years now that we've got to do a better job of securing our ports, or we're boned. I'm tired of dealing with the morons, so I'm outta here."? No ambiguitity, nothing that could be interpreted as scare mongering, just a big old bird flashed in their faces.
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Old 12-05-2004, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Tuckerfan
Then why doesn't he just come out and say, "You know, ...
Because you can catch more flies with honey than shit. Thompson was pretty clear about the deficiencies without assigning blame.
Had this just been more officially sanctioned scaremongering, we wouldn't be seeing Bush trying to recast Tommy's remarks:
Quote:
Bush said Thompson "was commenting on the fact that we're a large country, with all kinds of avenues where somebody can inflict harm."

"We're doing everything we can to protect the American people," the president said at the White House in response to a question about Thompson's remarks.
Bush Downplays Concern of Terror Attack on Food
  #30  
Old 12-05-2004, 01:49 PM
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And also, what if there had been a major news story that the head of the CIA for instance was terribly concerned about planes running into tall buildings? Maybe Al Qaeda might have reconsidered its plans thinking it was being watched more closely?
I agree with your second statement here, Ludovic.

There is a *big* difference between the following two scenarios, though:

(1) The head of the CIA says, at a news conference, "We are concerned that terrorists might hijack a plane (or several), and crash them into skyscrapers."

(2) The head of the CIA says, at a news conference, "I am so surprised that terrorists haven't hijacked planes, and crashed them into skyscrapers! It'd be really easy."

So, I'm glad that you recognize that what Thompson said was stupid, but I think it was a lot worse than the "run of the mill stupid" that we've grown accustomed to seeing.


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  #31  
Old 12-05-2004, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan
Hm. Parting shot because he's unhappy with the current administration's action/lack of action in this area? Trying to goad them into action as he's walking out the door? Establishing the possibility of being able to say a great big "I told you so!" at a future date?

I'm rethinking my position as to whether what Thompson did was stupid or not. I don't think it was wise, but I'm no longer sure it was stupid.

Thanks, gang!
Heh. It was both not particularly stupid nor particularly wise. Pretty much everyone in Washington has a pet theory as to how the terrorists will strike next and many of them aren't shy about vocalizing it. New York Senator Schumer, for example, has a theory about shipping containers which theory is shared by many. Is it "unwise" to voice that concern publicly? I don't think so. He wouldn't be responsible if he didn't vocalize it, and he wouldn't be a politician if he didn't politicize it. Same with Secretary Thompson. He's going to be running for office soon in a farm state. It only makes sense for him to say things which would call for more money to go into the agriculture industry and/or which would increase the cost of doing business for foreign competitors of American agriculture.

The reason I think it wasn't particularly wise is that I believe that in fact, Thompson is probably pretty much off base -- Schumer's concern strikes me as more rational. Our food system is pretty highly decentralized. Imports from the Middle East are tiny as a part of our total food consumption. Those imports tend to be of things which are consumed over time (like grains and prepared foods) as opposed to quickly (like fresh fruits and vegetables), which means that only a few people would be affected by any poisoning attempt before the source could be traced and isolated. And in no small number of cases, the primary consumers of the food imported from the Middle East are immigrants from there -- not terrorists' natural targets.

No matter how Islamist terrorists strike us next, some one in Washington will be able to say "I told you so." I don't think that that guy will be Tommy Thompson.
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Old 12-05-2004, 07:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MEBuckner
"You know, for the life of me, I can't understand why the terrorists haven't gone after the Internet purveyors of penile and breast enlargement products, Viagra and other treatments for erectile disfunction, credit repair, and non-traditional college degree programs. It would be so easy to do, and it would have such a devastating impact on our country; plus, many of those fine beacons of our modern Western civilization--I speak here especially of the penis and breast enlargement and erectile disfunction treatments--are just the sorts of things those puritanical, intolerant savages would hate the most."
I assume that you say this as a joke, but the simple fact is that spam is an excellent medium for sending go-codes to operatives -- traffic analysis is defeated because there's no way to tell which of several million targets is the one for whom the hidden message is intended.

Really, the Feds need to haul in every spammer they can find and anal-probe them for their customer lists. It wouldn't even involve any civil liberties issues -- just leverage their obvious guilt under various existing laws (fraud, trademark infringement, theft of services, etc) and get 'em to sing.
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Old 12-05-2004, 07:48 PM
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Heck, I say they need to do it on general prinicples.
  #34  
Old 12-06-2004, 08:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Aldebaran
Of course. But having enough normal intellect and the ability to reason normally does not keep the gullible population's focus on Red Middle Eastern Terrorist Alert, does it?

I would take that "chatter listening" with a few tons of salt, if I were you.
You appear to have misinterpreted my statement, because I don't trust much of anything the administration purportedly sources to 'chatter'. I was trying to ease fears of people who think that anyone who announces a 'novel' way to attack the U.S. is actually giving ideas to terrorists.
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Old 12-06-2004, 09:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Squink
The question here is not 'how many ways can we dream up that won't work' but, 'how many ways are there that might work', and how can we prevent evil-doers from employing them?
That, my friend, is a damn good question.
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Old 12-06-2004, 09:28 AM
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No - it's not stupid. Does anyone really believe potential terrorists and their organisations need the bleedin' obvious pointing out to them?
  #37  
Old 12-07-2004, 04:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan
Departing Secretary of HHS Tommy Thompson said this:

From: Newsday

Does anyone else thing this is a really, really stupid thing to say? Granted, it's an easy idea to come up with independently. But wouldn't it be smarter to just work hard quietly behind the scenes to ensure our food supply is as safe as possible, as opposed to publicly pointing out our vulnerable areas?

I admit I am biased against Thompson, having suffered under his Governorship and subsequent debt before he fled the state. But I still think I'd consider this stupid if said by anyone else.
Most truly effective toxins are highly reactive and degrade quickly. Those that don't are VERY expensive, on the order of botox (>$1000.00 per gram). Shipping contaminated foodstuffs might sicken or even kill some people, but the victims would be so scattered in time and distance that that a terrorist attack might never be recognized as the cause. Its more practical to just shoot or bomb people.

Thompson must be possessed of a near invincible ignorance, not to have picked this up from the dozens of briefings he has had on security.
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