Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A New New York State of Mind

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A New New York State of Mind

Article excerpt

So now it turns out that the intelligence about an imminent attack on New York City subways last week may have been a hoax. Or it may have been true. Or something in between. Given the murky and duplicitous world of intelligence gathering, we probably will never know.

There is one thing, though, that we do know as we sort through the urban legends and the conflicting foreign intelligence: Most New Yorkers seem to have been willing to tolerate the ambiguity and anxiety that goes with a nonspecific warning, even at the very moment that the reliability of the information was being publicly debated.

However, not all New Yorkers are showing this level of civic maturity just yet. Rather than be relieved that an explosive-laden baby stroller didn't incinerate a car full of subway passengers, a few - perhaps for political gain - are accusing officials of scaring us unnecessarily. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who did his best to carefully weigh the evidence and be open rather than secretive, has been criticized by some who insist that terrorism warnings be based only on rock-solid evidence.

So now is a good time to acknowledge the new rules of public responsibility in the age of terror. Shooting the messenger is not the way to face threats like terrorism. We can demand that our public officials tell the truth and never exploit warnings for political gain, but do we really want them to fear our electoral wrath simply because their best judgment about a threat turns out not to be right? …

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