You've probably seen this story:
CBS News has learned about a potential terror threat for the day before the election.
Sources told CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton that U.S. intelligence has alerted joint terrorism task forces that al Qaeda could be planning attacks in three states for Monday.
It is believed New York, Texas and Virginia are all possible targets, though no specific locations are mentioned.
A lot of crazy things have been leaked recently by people in intelligence and law enforcement -- but the leaks that seem to have been designed to drive Republican voters to the polls have mostly been to Rupert Murdoch's media outlets. This one went to CBS. So it's believable -- right?
Well, here's a detail from Pat Milton's biography:
At The Associated Press, Milton led coverage of the mid-air explosion of TWA Flight 800 off the coast Long Island that killed 230 people...
Milton authored "In the Blink of an Eye," which told the inside story of the FBI's investigation into the TWA Flight 800 crash.
And who was the central figure in Milton's 1999 book? Why, it was the FBI's James Kallstrom. As one review of the book put it:
Mr. Kallstrom comes across as [Milton's] tragic hero, despite an immediately apparent problem: His heroism is dubious. Even with unlimited authority, he failed in his primary task, to determine the cause of the crash. Nevertheless, Ms. Milton presents his work as exemplary.
As an Amazon reviewer put it,
It is quite obvious that to Pat Milton, James Kallstrom can do no wrong and is the hero of the investigation. It can be a little much sometimes....
I haven't read the book, but I can see a hint of hero worship even in this excerpt:
One of the biggest men in the group -- six feet tall, solidly built -- managed to look rumpled in his newly pressed suit as he trotted toward his car. With the easy warmth by which his colleagues had come to know him, James Keith Kallstrom mumbled a few quick good-byes, slid behind the wheel of his navy blue Crown Victoria, and called the familiar number that had lit up his beeper: the FBI duty agent in downtown Manhattan. As he dialed, he unbuttoned his collar and yanked his tie loose....
In his Daily Beast story yesterday, Wayne Barrett reported that Kallstrom, now retired from the Bureau, is part of the cabal of Donald Trump enthusiasts who seem to be behind many recent FBI leaks:
Kallstrom is the former head of the New York FBI office, installed in that post in the ’90s by then-FBI director Louis Freeh, one of [Rudy] Giuliani’s longtime friends. Kallstrom has, like Giuliani, been on an anti-[James] Comey romp for months, most often on Fox, where he’s called the Clintons as a “crime family.” He has been invoking unnamed FBI agents who contact him to complain about Comey’s exoneration of Clinton in one interview after another, positioning himself as an apolitical champion of FBI values....
When Comey cleared Clinton this July, Kallstrom was on Fox ..., declaring: “I’ve talked to about 15 different agents today -- both on the job and off the job -- who are basically worried about the reputation of the agency they love.” The number grew dramatically by Labor Day weekend when Comey released Clinton’s FBI interview and other documents, and Kallstrom told [Fox's Megyn] Kelly he was talking to “50 different people in and out of the agency, retired agents,” all of whom he said were “basically disgusted” by Comey’s latest release.
By Sept. 28, Kallstrom said he’d been contacted by hundreds of people....
Kallstrom, whose exchanges with active agents about particular cases are as contrary to FBI policy as Giuliani’s, formally and passionately endorsed Trump this week on Stuart Varney’s Fox Business show, adding that Clinton is a “pathological liar.”
Kallstrom, who served as a Marine before becoming an agent, didn’t mention that a charity he’d founded decades ago and that’s now called the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, was the single biggest beneficiary of Trump’s promise to raise millions for veterans when he boycotted the Iowa primary debate. A foundation official said that Trump’s million-dollar donation this May, atop $100,000 that he’d given in March, were the biggest individual grants it had ever received. The Trump Foundation had contributed another $230,000 in prior years and Trump won the organization’s top honor at its annual Waldorf Astoria gala in 2015.
Milton, according to her publisher, "was granted unprecedented access to the FBI investigation" in order to write In the Blink of an Eye. Kallstrom was her book's hero. Is he still a source, or a friend? Did he (or someone he's close to) leak this Al Qaeda warning to her?
If the warning is real -- and it certainly might be -- there doesn't seem to be much to it, according to this Reuters story:
A U.S. government source in Washington said some federal agencies sent bulletins to local and state officials flagging the information but that the threat was relatively low level.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates airports, tunnels and bridges around New York City, continues high levels of patrol it has had in place, spokesman Steve Coleman said.
Coleman declined to offer details on the warning, but the New York City Police Department said the threat report lacked specifics and was still being assessed.
Disregard the reference to "high levels of patrol" -- here in the New York area, law enforcement has been on high alert for terrorism since 9/11 without interruption. Note that this threat is described as "low level" and "lack[ing] specifics."
Warnings like this, especially vague warnings, probably come through much more frequently than we realize. But this one made the news. I wonder why.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog