Gut Feelings And Terror Warnings

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff tells us that his “gut” tells him that we may be in danger of terror attacks this summer:

Fearing complacency among the American people over possible terror threats, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in Chicago Tuesday that the nation faces a heightened chance of an attack this summer.

“I believe we are entering a period this summer of increased risk,” Chertoff told the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board in an unusually blunt and frank assessment of America’s terror threat level.

“Summertime seems to be appealing to them,” he said of al-Qaeda. “We do worry that they are rebuilding their activities.”

Still, Chertoff said there are not enough indications of an imminent plot to raise the current threat levels nationwide. And he indicated that his remarks were based on “a gut feeling” formed by past seasonal patterns of terrorist attacks, recent al-Qaeda statements, and intelligence he did not disclose.

There is an assessment “not of a specific threat, but of increased vulnerability,” he added.

In other words, Chertoff and his magic terrorist sensing “gut” don’t have any specific information about threats of terrorist activity either here or  anywhere else. Additionally, as James Joyner noted, going public with a “gut” feeling that something might happen this summer is incredibly irresponsible. There’s no justification for raising public fears of terrorism without specific evidence that there is a reason to be worried. I’d also add that I hope that our intelligence services rely on something more reliable than Secretary Chertoff’s “gut” in evaluating threats to the nation.