Another Crazy Internet Rumor Becomes GOP Talking Point

As the Durango Herald's Joe Hanel reported this weekend:

Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction – the sponsor of the air tanker bill – said he is worried that large fires in the Colorado River Basin could clog reservoirs and cause a water supply “catastrophe” across the whole American Southwest.

“That is why that is a priority or could be a priority for those who wish us ill will, and those who would like to change the United States and the Western United States,” King said at a hearing for his bill.

Terrorist attacks in the forests have already happened, King’s allies said.

“We know for a fact that forest fires started in California were started by al-Qaida,” said Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, during debate in the Senate on Wednesday… [Pols emphasis]

There's a problem with Sen. Ted Harvey's allegation that "we know for a fact" forest fires in California "were started by al-Qaida."

California fire officials say it never happened. [Pols emphasis]

In the summer and fall of 2003, southern California was indeed devastated by wildfires, some of which were determined to be arson. And it's also true, as the AP reported in July of 2003, that FBI agents were briefed on an alleged terrorist plot involving wildfires. But there's plenty missing from this picture:

The FBI alerted law enforcement agencies last month that an al-Qaeda terrorist now in detention had talked of masterminding a plot to set a series of devastating forest fires around the western United States.

Rose Davis, a spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, told The Associated Press that officials there took note of the warning but didn't see a need to act further on it…

The Republic reported that the detainee, who was not identified, said the plan involved three or four people setting wildfires using timed devices in Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming that would detonate in forests and grasslands after the operatives had left the country.

What's missing here, even after nearly ten years of investigation, is any connection whatsoever between this alleged 2003 plot that a detainee "talked of masterminding" in Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming, and any wildfire–in California or elsewhere. Al Qaida does periodically threaten things like this, but it hasn't actually happened. During subsequent fire seasons, this rumor, and even the 2003 memo itself have been mysteriously "refreshed" by conservative news outlets like FOX News–check out this 2007 FOX News report, wherein the same 2003 memo became a "five day old" memo, and the whole handwringing cycle began anew on Fox and Friends.

Now folks, we actually think the state firefighting tanker fleet is a good idea. And we certainly don't intend to downplay any credible threat, present or historical, to the safety of millions of people threatened by wildfire in the western United States.

But this is another Republican legislator regurgitating complete nonsense from the well of the Colorado Senate, and we're tired of this. Senator Harvey, not only do we in no way "know for a fact" that "forest fires started in California were started by al-Qaida," there is no evidence it ever happened. While the Denver Post publishes their dozenth feature-length story on one dumb thing Sen. Evie Hudak said this session, GOP elected officials are proclaiming from the same podiums that Colorado has "banned gun ownership," and that "we know for a fact" Al-Qaida tried to burn California to the ground. And nobody outside the Durango Herald's readership hears about it.

The public deserves better–from the GOP and the press.

17 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. MADCO says:

    Actually- not only do we know for a fact that AQ started those fires, they did it with an experimental checmical weapon that results in the fire looking a lot like it started from lightning or a cigarette.

    Facts so far:

    – AQ has experimental chemical weapons.

    – AQ has used these weapons against California, ie, against the USA

    – Obama has not responded in any way.

    And you wonder why it's going to be so cold here Wed, MAY 1.


  2. Albert J. Nock says:

    The fires were resultant of the terrorist dropping beetles.

    America dropped potato bugs on Russia, lol. Karma.

  3. Arvadonian1 says:

    Given that most forest fires start as a result of lightning strike, or an "Act of God", isn't putting them out undermining God's work?

  4. Gilpin Guy says:

    The bummer here that Pols points out is that it is a reasonable solution to the dwindling national fleet but the Republicans have to introduce fear as the justification for voting for the bill.  It is worthwhile doing even if there are no terrorists involved.

  5. Gray in Mountains says:

    I think a small fleet, one that could respond perhaps before the feds, is a good idea. Might even be a revenue generator

  6. JeffcoBlue says:

    The problem, Pols, is that Ted Harvey does not have a vagina, and the Denver Post only fact checks people with vaginas. Silly bloggers!

    Call Chuck Plunkett, he'll explain. It makes me fucking sick so don't ask me.

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      But hang on, Plunkett sez! They've almost got the new story ready from Bartels and Kurtis explaining how Morgan Carroll really was responsible for the death of Tom Clements.

      It's a travesty that any of these hacks are considered journalists.

  7. ArapaGOP says:

    Sorry Pols, but Hudak making light of rape victims is much worse than Ted Harvey getting a minor fact jumbled. Nice try.

    • "getting a minor fact jumbled"… is that what you call "falling completely in love with his conspiracy-theory-of-the-day subscription"?

    • MADCO says:

      except that's not what she did. (squirrel!)

      If she had- I would agree, that would be worse. (Solyndra!)

    • roccoprahn says:

      agop, two questions to start.

      1) Did Senator Hudak apologize to the young lady immediately?

      2) Did the young lady accept the apology from Senator Hudak?

      Spoiler alert……………..1) Yes    2) Yes.

      Now, let's move to harvey.

      Since his idiotic accusation, backed by……………..what?…………has harvey retracted the charge that Al Qaeda's "burning California"?

      agop, pull it together, you're descending into………….oh wait, you were already there!

      • Gray in Mountains says:

        in warmer climes there are critters called pin worms. In the olden times when kids played on the ground and sat on the ground pin worms would crawl into their anus. At night they would come out so the kid's moms, after kids were asleep, would go to kids beds and look in their undies and at their anus with a flashlight and pick the little suckers off.


        That is where the Guppy has descended too. He is a pin worm that needs to be picked off in the cool dark night

    • BlueCat says:

      Sorry, lame one. The completely inaccurate statemen that it is a known fact that the fires were an act of El Qaeda terrorism is hardly a "minor" little misstatement. 

      Whether one thing is worse than another is entirely subjective. Whether or not something actually is a documented fact is objectively knowable.  Before repeating internet rumor, suspicions, concerns, what Uncle Ned said he heard from somebody or the hypothetically possible as fact a  responsible person, especially one who serves in the capacity of an elected official, checks.

      There is no basis for comparison that has any relevance to the fact that King is either a liar or is too irresponsible and/or flaky to check before making unsubstantiated claims. How one feels about Hudak comments doesn't affect that one way or the other.

  8. In related news, Republican Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) is in the U.S. Senate trying to limit the government's bullet purchases because he favors another Internet rumor – that DHS is buying up all the bullets so that private citizens can't arm themselves effectively.

    Pehaps Sen. Inhofe can look at his own gun-crazy constituents when assigning blame for the bullet shortage, since they've been buying up bullets at a record rate since it became likely that Obama would win the Presidency back in 2008.

    Seriously – this is what the Republican Party has reduced itself to: a bunch of fact-shunning conspiracy lovers who shouldn't be let anywhere NEAR a government post.

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