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Readers Offer Glimpse Inside Terrorist Mind

You’ll be pleased, possibly delighted, to know that our happy club of devotees to the Peoples Weekly Brief continues to expand around the country and in distant lands.

Thankfully, it’s a crazed, somewhat disturbed but generally entertaining, inquisitive and thoughtful bunch of misfits that populate the PWB readership ranks. Democrats, republicans, libertarians --along with a smattering of anarchists, socialists and the occasional communist-- all belong to the club and have been weighing in with feedback, comments and insight.

While the views are different, the general sense about PWB readers is that you all seem to have a shared desire or tendency for straight talk and common sense. That’s a very refreshing thing, regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum.

Each week, after all the chores are done and the pay packets have been distributed to the staff, we pull out the Jack Daniels, empty the big canvas mailbag onto the floor and see what’s what in the minds of our readers. While we may not get the chance to answer every letter before the Jack runs out, we do read them...and in fact we enjoy picking out the more disturbing contributions and routing them over to the FBI and NSA, where dark forces intent on squashing civil liberties initiate surveillance and worse on unsuspecting citizens.

All in good fun of course.

This past week we asked you to climb inside the dank, dark and for the most part unoccupied mind of an imaginary terrorist to gauge what the little fella’ might be thinking after reading through some of the U.S. headlines in his local Waziristan newspaper. To refresh, last week’s big news included:

--Possible Surveillance of Washington State Ferry System Overshadowed by Concern That Publishing the Suspects Pictures May Have Violated Civil Liberties and Upset Countless Self Righteous Liberals

--CIA’s Internal Watchdog Beats Dead Horse in Effort to Show Who’s to Blame for 9/11

--National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq Says Damned if You Do and Damned if You Don’t

The votes are in and the majority of you were thinking along the same lines… our terrorist is puzzled by all the internal debate in the U.S., oddly amused by the transparency in our politics, government and media and entertained by our incessant demand for instant gratification and results.

Wayne from Fort Worth writes “… if I wait long enough, they’ll wear themselves down with infighting and be so distracted that I can just walk in and take over.”

Minneapolis Bob agrees, stating that “… as he patiently waits for President Bush to leave office, our terrorist is leaning back in his chair with a grin on his face, entertained by the circus currently on display on Capitol Hill.”

Matthew, a student at Florida State University adds “… What’s the terrorist thinking? He’s thinking… I don’t have to do anything, they’ll tear themselves apart.”

Brian, U.S. Navy (Retired), imagined the terrorist sitting in his safehouse, mumbling… “Praise be to Allah, and the New York Times.”

Finally, Tom from Wisconsin writes “…If I were the terrorist, I’d be thinking, “wow, these people are STOOOPID.”

We had one of the PWB fact checkers in our Karachi office do some research, and oddly enough, in the Frontier Provinces of Pakistan, “stupid” is spelled with three O’s, and they do capitalize everything. So kudos to Tom for his linguistic savvy.

Mike from New Orleans writes “… I don’t think the terrorist will pay much attention to those articles in the newspaper. But after watching CNN, he will most certainly think that Britney Spears is getting fat and should be more responsible in raising her children, and that man-made global warming is causing serious problems for the polar bears.”

Finally, Tracy from parts unknown said “… the terrorist is thinking…I’ve got to move to the U.S. It’s easy to get in, easy to carry out plans, better food and I can potentially win a lawsuit if I get profiled.“

Tracy also offered up a quote or two from Tom Clancy’s "Patriot Games," in which Jack Ryan muses “… Terrorists could fight a war and be protected by the democratic processes of their enemy… they could hold a society hostage against itself and its most important precepts, daring it to change. They could move around at will, taking advantage of the freedom that defined a democratic state.”

This is a very important notion, and one worth exploring in a future column… how Al Qaeda, or any terrorist organization, takes advantage of the very things that define our society. What we define as our key strengths… an open society, freedom of movement, a balanced justice system, civil liberties, a transparent, accountable political process… the terrorist identifies as our key weaknesses.

Now, at the risk of veering off topic, there will be those obnoxiously skeptical, smirking individuals who will read the last paragraph and scoff… you know the folks I’m talking about… they’re never happy with anything, they’re convinced the U.S. is evil and that everything generally stinks in a big stinky way here in America. And it’s always somebody else’s fault.

Well, guess what Skippy… our justice system isn’t perfect, the political process always has room for improvement, occasionally civil liberties are toyed with and our way of life isn’t without flaws. But if you’ve traveled outside our borders on occasion with your eyes open and your smirky mouth closed so you can actually listen to what goes on elsewhere, you’ll notice that we do have, for the most part, a very good situation.

A situation, by the way, that is still, despite some setbacks, the envy of many people overseas. I’m pretty damn tired of listening to the refrain from the Woe is Us Singers saying that the world hates America and we’ve lost all our goodwill and nobody trusts us and we’ll never get nominated Prom King and boo freakin’ hoo.

Yes, it’d be lovely if we could just get along and all the countries in the world could unite in a big, sweaty group hug. But here on Planet Earth, the determining factor for our foreign policy and national security decisions shouldn’t be global popularity. But that’s a topic for another day.

Our last reader comment comes from Larry, somewhere out there in America. He writes “… Your point of view is very refreshing. Thanks for writing an article that doesn’t make me curse and kick my dog.”

That of course would be from the inside of Larry’s mind, not the terrorist’s. Till next week, stay safe.

Respond to the Writer

Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks" as well as major motion pictures. In addition, Baker is a writer for a BBC drama to begin production in July 2007.