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So the Washington Post is pointing out that some testimony given in 2004 to the 9/11 Commission by former CIA Director George Tenet bolsters one assertion in the latest book by Bob Woodward on the whole affair, while it weakens an assertion made by, er, Bob Woodward, in the same book….

It has to do with whether or not George Tenet did, as he claims, meet with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and tell her that he had reason to believe a terrorist attack within the U.S. might be in the offing. She says they met but that no location for an attack was explicitly stated, and so “the targets were assumed to be in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Israel and Jordan.”

The internal confusion in Woodward’s book, over whether or not Tenet felt Rice took him seriously or, conversely, he wasn’t “getting through to her,” is much much much less interesting than something else we see in the Post.

Hear ye:

Writeth the Post: Rice acknowledged that the White House was receiving a “steady stream of quite alarmist reports of potential attacks” during that period…”

“A Steady Stream of Quite Alarmist Reports of Potential Attacks”

Is it wise, we wonder, to refer to the period of warnings leading up to the attacks in Sept. 2001 as “alarmist”? Let’s check.

a-larm-ist (n.) A person who needlessly alarms or attempts to alarm others, as by inventing or spreading false or exaggerated rumors of impending danger or catastrophe.

What about a different word — one that maybe doesn’t say “needlessly” and “inventing” and “exaggerated rumors”? (since in the end, there did turn out to be some substance to the claim that terrorists would strike in the U.S…)

What about “alarming”? Let’s check.

a-larm-ing (adj) Disturbing or frightening.

Yes, that’s better. It doesn’t have any of those dismissive overtones that one would scarcely want to associate with the period leading up to Sept. 11. One would rather appear vigilant and unlucky than foolish and incompetent. Wouldn’t one?

ON THE OTHER HAND, the phrase “a steady stream of quite alarmist reports of potential _____” might have been a good one to use for another thing that comes to mind.


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