Washington Babylon — October 19, 2007, 9:27 am

Homeland Security, Death Cab for Cutie, Fuzzy Llamas, and the Square Root of Stupidity

At times it’s hard to fathom exactly how stupid our nation has become. And then there’s this: though only reported thus far by MTV News, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently broke up a major terrorist plot that threatened to strike a painful blow to America’s collective loins. The strike was thwarted when DHS agents on the Canadian border confiscated a hard drive containing the song files for a new solo record by Death Cab for Cutie guitarist/producer Chris Walla. “I couldn’t even venture a guess as to where it is, or what it’s doing there,” Walla told MTV. “I mean, I can’t just call their customer-service center and ask about my drive. There’s nothing I can do. I don’t know if we can hire an attorney … is there a black-hole attorney? You can’t take a black hole to court . . . They could be water-boarding my drive for all I know.”

MTV says it’s “not abundantly clear” why the hard drive was confiscated, but I’ll sleep better at night knowing that it was. And this will help even more: DHS has come up with “a mathematical value purporting to represent the square root of terrorist intent,” according to Congressional Quarterly. In fact, that was reported nearly a year ago, but I only heard about it last night and wanted to share the discovery.

According to CQ, the “figure appears deep in the mind-numbingly complex risk-assessment formulas that the department used in 2006 to decide the likelihood that a place is or will become a terrorist target—an all-important estimate outside the Beltway, because greater slices of the federal anti-terrorism pie go to the locations with the highest scores.” Variables used by DHS in calculating the square root of terrorist intent included an “attractiveness factor,” which seeks “to establish how terrorists might prefer one sort of target over another,” and the “chatter factor,” which seeks “to gauge the intent of potential terror plotters based on communication intercepts.”

Maybe this is how DHS’s list of national assets to protect against terrorist attacks came to include Old MacDonald’s Petting Zoo in Woodville, Alabama. “Don’t just gaze at the animals–touch them!” says the zoo’s website. “Feel the wool of the sheep! Experience the fuzzy chin of the llama as he eats from your hand.” Will Al Qaeda stop at nothing?

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

January 2015

Come With Us If You Want to Live

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Body Politic

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Problem of Pain Management

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Game On

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Love Crimes

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Body Politic·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“‘He wrote all these love poems, but he was a son of a bitch,’ said a reporter from a wire service.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Article
Love Crimes·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If a man rapes a woman, she might be forced to marry him, because in Afghanistan sex before marriage is dishonorable.”
Photographs © Andrew Quilty/Oculi/Agence VU
Article
Game On·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union had posed a truly existential threat.”
Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Come With Us If You Want to Live·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I was startled that all these negative ideologies could be condensed so easily into a positive worldview.”
Illustration by Darrel Rees
Article
Christmas in Prison·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Just so you motherfuckers know, I’ll be spending Christmas with my family, eating a good meal, and you’ll all be here, right where you belong.”
Photographer unknown. Artwork courtesy Alyse Emdur

Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:

36,000

A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.

Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today