So hey–that terrorist information that has lifted New York and Washington, D.C.-area office buildings into fortified Code Orange status turns out to be not so stale and irrelevant after all! That British and Pakistani roundup of Al Qaeda suspects turns out to have been casing some of the Code Orange office buildings in New York–in 2001, to be sure, but the plot he’s involved in seems to be very much alive. So much for the paranoid left’s accusations that Code Orange was actually code for a Bush campaign maneuver to make the Dems look bad right after their convention.

CNN reports today:

“One man arrested in a British roundup of al Qaeda suspects is believed to have been on the ground in New York in 2001 conducting reconnaissance of financial buildings identified recently as possible attack targets, a U.S. law enforcement source told CNN.

“He has been identified as Esa al-Hindi by U.S. government officials who describe him a ‘major player who moved operational information between key components of al Qaeda’ in Britain, the United States and Pakistan.

“Senior Pakistani intelligence officials said that during interrogations last month after he was apprehended, suspected al Qaeda computer expert Naeem Noor Khan spoke of a terror network in Britain and said he frequently relayed messages from Pakistan to the cell leader, an important al Qaeda operative….

“Al-Hindi was one of a dozen suspects arrested in Britain on Tuesday who authorities have accused of being part of a terror cell. The British authorities also said the United States has been particularly interested in al-Hindi for “some time.”

“U.S. law enforcement sources said al-Hindi conducted some of the surveillance in the United States back in 2001.

“One source told CNN that law enforcement authorities have definitively placed al-Hindi in three of the buildings that were cased — the New York Stock Exchange and the Citigroup building in New York City and the Prudential Financial building in Newark, New Jersey.

“Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge raised the terror alert level Sunday to orange, or high, for financial services facilities in those cities and Washington, D.C., because of intelligence about potential terrorist attacks.”

The Wall Street Journal contains this scathing editorial today (warning: you have to register before you read):

“If the subject weren’t so serious we’d chalk it all up to the August news doldrums. The Bush Administration makes some breakthrough antiterror arrests and promptly shares some of its new information with the public. For its trouble, it then finds itself subject to handwringing ‘news analyses’ wondering whether the timing was politically motivated and editorials lecturing on the temperature of terror warnings as if we were talking about Goldilocks’s porridge.

“Please. At Manhattan’s Citicorp building and in the financial district where we sit, there just isn’t much debate about this at all. People are happy to have the information, even if some of the building surveillance that’s been described is several years old.

“Everyone knows enough about al Qaeda’s modus operandi by now to understand that the group plans years in advance and doesn’t easily give up on targets. They also understand that the same people nitpicking now would be the first to point the finger if there was an attack and such information had been withheld….

“The key player here appears to be an al Qaeda communications officer and terror planner named Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, who was arrested three weeks ago in Pakistan. On his computer, authorities discovered documents and photographs indicating extensive surveillance of buildings in New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Also arrested in Pakistan last month was Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, wanted by the U.S. for his role in the 1998 African embassy bombings–an attack that was five years in the planning.”

George W. Bush is being punished by the liberal media–and the Democratic Party through its uninhibited mouthpiece Howard “Darnedest Things” Dean– because he would rather not have a building blow up first and take the precautions later. As the WSJ says:

“Joe Lieberman has, as usual, been warning the Democrats away from the fever swamps here, saying nobody ‘in their right mind’ would believe that President Bush would ‘scare people for political reasons.’ And John Kerry has at least been smart enough to stay above the fray. But the Democratic contender would probably be wise to actively rein in the likes of Howard Dean, who was still rambling conspiratorially as of Wednesday night.

“Speculation about the timing of arrests and the motives for terror warnings doesn’t do anything to reassure voters that the Democratic Party is serious about protecting them. We’re pretty sure most Americans see the latest blows to al Qaeda as unalloyed good news, even if some of the credit has to go to the Bush Administration.”

There’s another, perhaps more trivial reason why the whole notion that Bush or his supposed handlers scheduled Code Orange for political reasons is patently absurd: Living with Code Orange is no fun. Here in Washington, where I live, we hate that traffic has been diverted into snarls and that our crown jewel, the U.S. Capitol, is now a pariah spot rather than the first place we used to take visiting relatives for a sightseeing stroll. Political reasons? More like political suicide–unless the threat of terror happens to be palpable and real, as has turned out.