Friday, March 08, 2002

Moussaoui is the guy who just wanted to learn to fly a plane, without bothering to learn the uninteresting skills of take off and landing. He drew attention to himself by claiming to be French and then angrily refusing to speak French, and by basically being loud and noticable (it still strikes me that he was attempting to be caught). When Minnesota FBI agents arrested him they obtained his laptop computer. This being before September 11, when there were still civil rights in the U. S., the Minnesota agents approached FBI headquarters to ask the Justice Department to obtain a warrant for them under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (which applied because there was reason to believe that Moussaoui was a foreign intelligence agent, and the investigation was not a criminal investigation, but an intelligence investigation) to search the contents of the laptop (it would later prove to contain information on crop-dusting, which may very well have raised suspicions even in those apparently innocent days before September 11). Such a warrant was required at the time (the law has of course been made more Orwellian since September 11). The warrant requires a court application, but is so easily obtained that of more than 12,000 applications only one had ever been denied (ironically, and not surprisingly, the nutty right wingers have used the non-obtaining of the warrant as an excuse to claim that the law as it stood was too lax, blaming 'liberalism's attack on American intelligence'!). Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department wanted to bother to obtain this warrant. It appears that neither the FBI nor the Justice Department wanted the contents of the laptop to be known, at least not before September 11. For them to refuse what appears to be a routine request looks like they were protecting Moussaoui, for reasons we can only wonder about. The general model of conspiracies is that normal protections against crime (e. g., military air defence by scrambling jets to intercept suspicious planes, normal criminal investigation procedures, normal police and Secret Service protection, normal FBI investigation of possible terrorist suspects) are mysteriously lifted or weakened just before disaster occurs. In rare cases, we find out about the change in normal procedure (e. g., Bush's ordering the FBI to back off the investigation of the bin Laden family). It is the inexplicable change in normal bureaucratic procedures, when any normal bureaucracy resists even the tiniest change, that raises alarms in the naturally suspicious mind.