News Release

Freedom or Fear? Are “Terror Warnings” Used to Prop Up War?


ADAM JOHNSON, ahubbardjohnson at, @adamjohnsonNYC
Johnson just wrote the piece “Zero for 40 at Predicting Attacks: Why Do Media Still Take FBI Terror Warnings Seriously?” for the media watch group FAIR about sensationalist mainstream media outlets repeating “the latest press release by the FBI that country was under a new ‘heightened terror alert’ from ‘ISIL-inspired attacks'” for July 4.

He writes: “CNN led with the breathless warning on several of its cable programs, complete with a special report by Jim Sciutto of ‘The Lead’ in primetime.

“The threat was given extra credence when former CIA director — and consultant at D.C. PR firm Beacon Global Strategies — Michael Morell went on CBS ‘This Morning’ (6/29/15) and scared the ever-living bejesus out of everyone by saying he ‘wouldn’t be surprised if we were sitting [in the studio] next week discussing an attack on the U.S.’ The first piece of evidence Morell used to justify his apocalyptic posture, the ’50 ISIS arrests,’ was accompanied by a scary map on the CBS jumbotron showing ‘ISIS arrests’ all throughout the U.S.

“But one key detail is missing from this graphic: None of these ‘ISIS arrests’ involved any actual members of ISIS, only members of the FBI — and their network of informants — posing as such … the viewer is left thinking the FBI arrested 50 actual ISIS sleeper cells….

“Nevertheless, the ominous FBI (or Department of Homeland Security) ‘terror warning’ has become such a staple of the on-going, seemingly endless ‘war on terror’ (d/b/a war on ISIS), we hardly even notice it anymore. Marked by a feedback loop of extremist propaganda, unverifiable claims about ‘online chatter’ and fuzzy pronouncements issued by a never ending string of faceless Muslim bad guys, and given PR cover by FBI-contrived ‘terror plots,’ the specter of the impending ‘attack’ is part of a broader white noise of fear that never went away after 9/11. Indeed, the verbiage employed by the FBI in this latest warning — ‘we’re asking people to remain vigilant’ — implies no actual change of the status quo, just an hysterical nudge to not let down our collective guard.

“There’s only one problem: These warnings never actually come to fruition. Not rarely, or almost never, but — by all accounts — never. No attacks, no arrests, no suspects at large.” Johnson lists forty previous FBI and DHS ‘terror warnings’ over the past 14 years, none of which actually predicted or foiled an attack.

One aspect of this, Johnson writes, is the “FBI, like all agencies of the government, does not operate in a political vacuum. Emphasizing the ‘ISIS threat’ at home necessarily helps prop up the broader war effort the FBI’s boss, the president of the United States, must sell to a war-weary public. The incentive is to therefore highlight the smallest threats. This was a feature that did not go unnoticed during the Bush years, but has since fallen out of fashion.”

Note: Michael Morell was George W. Bush’s briefer during the disinformation campaign leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He was questioned about his record by Institute for Public Accuracy Communications Director Sam Husseini recently at the National Press Club, see: “On Iraq/Torture, Still in Denial” for details and video.