Monday, November 14, 2005

An Unreasonable Standard

A man who participated in the recent terrorist bombing in Jordan was apparently in the custody of the American Military in Iraq, but was released.

AMMAN, Jordan - The U.S. military announced Monday it arrested and later released an Iraqi whose name matches that of one of the Amman hotel suicide bombers, saying there was no "compelling evidence" that he posed a security threat.

The American military command could not confirm if the man it arrested last year, identified as Safaa Mohammed Ali, was among the three al-Qaida in Iraq militants who carried out the attacks Wednesday on the Radisson SAS, Grand Hyatt and Days Inn hotels. The blasts killed 57 other people.


The family stayed in Fallujah until shortly before U.S. troops overran the city in November 2004. During this time, the military rounded up hundreds of Iraqis, including a man identified as Safaa Mohammed Ali.

Ali was detained locally and was released after two weeks because there was no "compelling evidence to continue to hold him" as a threat to Iraq's security, said the U.S. command in Baghdad.

The military said it did not know if this man was the same Safaa Mohammed Ali who Jordanian authorities say drove with the three other Iraqis into Jordan on Nov. 5. Four days later, they attacked the hotels.

Of course, the complaint about the American military in Iraq is most often not that dangerous people are released, but that uninvolved people are held. (See Guantanamo detainees) This is an unreasonable standard to which to hold the military, 100% accuracy. No false negatives, and no false positives. Is it completely unexpected and unreasonable that in a war against terrorist insurgents, who make every effort to blend with the general population, who wear no uniform, no identifying insignia, and who have been trained to lie and deny that some errors in both detentions and releases are made.

What would be a reasonable standard? Good faith efforts, documented and transparent, to minimize the false positive and false negative percentages. You can't demand perfection; you can demand a quest for perfection.

The media is mistaken if they think this is important or helpful information. The only reason this is published is to undermine confidence in the American military at home and overseas.

Think about it. Is it the Associated Press' intention to helpfully point out that this man was in custody, and perhaps this information could be used to increase the accuracy of detentions? The DOD already has this information. After all, where did the AP get it? And if the information can be used, the national security apparatus is using it. No, the goal of the AP is to get that information into general knowledge, to undermine confidence in the competence of those managing the war.

Fifth column, indeed.

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