Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Another failure of the system

I know the media is out there claiming that the averted bombing in Times Square was due to the diligence of the national security experts in the Obama administration. Yeah, that's some nice spin there, but the truth is a little more concerning. Thomas Joscelyn at the Weekly Standard gives a quick summary and some pertinent thoughts about this attempted attack. Needless to say, he's right about this administration relying far too much on Lady Luck, and not enough on experience, expertise, and procedures:

Faisal Shahzad, a 30 year-old naturalized American citizen from Pakistan, has been arrested as the chief suspect behind the failed car bomb attack on Times Square this past Saturday. The good news is, of course, that the bomb was fairly unsophisticated (showing a low-level of expertise), it failed to detonate (sparing the lives of New Yorkers and tourists), and the man believed to be responsible for assembling and deploying the car bomb was apprehended in short order. Authorities were able to pinpoint the would-be terrorist in impressively little time.

It is not all good news, however. Law enforcement and intelligence officials failed to stop the perpetrator from placing his bomb in the first place. We were simply lucky that onlookers weren’t killed. If this was truly the work of a rogue individual, a “one-off” event as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano suggested on Sunday, then that failure would be somewhat understandable. As law enforcement and intelligence professionals have repeatedly lamented, it is exceedingly difficult to stop a “lone wolf” terrorist.

Shahzad himself is reportedly telling that story to investigators. In interview sessions with the FBI, Shahzad
has said that no one else was involved.

But what if Shahzad is simply lying and he was not a lone wolf? What if, as the press accounts are suggesting, there were more actors involved? What if this was yet another attack by the jihadists’ international terror network?

If that is the case, then this is a replay of the failed Christmas Day 2009 terrorist plot, when a would-be terrorist boarded a plane with a bomb that failed to detonate. Lady Luck and the vigilance of the passengers on board saved the day – not the U.S. government’s multi-billion dollar national security bureaucracy.

He's right. The administration dodged a bullet, not because they actually caught the guy, but because an observant civilian made note of the man. Surveillance cameras in New York caught him as he was changing his shirt after planting the bomb. And then there's the person who sold him the SUV through Craig's List that was able to help federal investigators actually find the guy. Of course, when he was taken into custody he was on a plane, and the plane was heading to Dubai. In other words, he was minutes away from disappearing off of our radar. Mr. Joscelyn continues:

Press accounts say that Shahzad may have ties to foreign terrorists in Pakistan. For example, Fox News is reporting that there are arrests in Pakistan that are tied to the attempted bombing. And the Washington Post reports that investigators are:

…scouring international phone records showing calls "between some of the people who might be associated with this and folks overseas," according to a U.S. official who has discussed the case with intelligence officers. Investigators uncovered evidence -- a piece of paper, fingerprints or possibly both -- that also indicates international ties, according to a federal official briefed on the investigation.

Before Shahzad's arrest, the official said the material points to "an individual who causes concern to [investigators], who has overseas connections, and they are looking for him."

The Post’s source says that we should think “smaller” than al Qaeda in terms of the organization that may be behind this latest attack. An alphabet soup of Islamist terrorist and extremist groups operates in Pakistan, with al Qaeda being the tip of the jihadist spear. So, Shahzad could have made contact with any one of those groups. Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal first reported that the Pakistani Taliban, which works closely with al Qaeda, claimed credit for the Times Square attack in a video that was apparently recorded beforehand. (See
here for Bill’s excellent reporting.)

Mr. Roggio was ahead of the curve on this situation. He was ahead of the administration, national security officials, and even the media. He's the one who broke the story about Shahzad attending Taliban training camps while in Pakistan, and based on that information Pakistani officials have arrested eight people in connection to the attempted bombing. Shahzad wasn't the "lone wolf" he's claiming to be to. Jake Tapper reports that he is in the hands of the "High-Value Interrogation Group," or HIG, and that's the story they're getting out of him. But if that were the case, and they believed him, why did Pakistan go after Taliban militants? Simply put, his story doesn't wash, and I'm guessing based on information presented by Bill Roggio, it sounded more plausible that he was executing an attack planned by Taliban commanders in Pakistan.

President Bush, in his address commemorating the fifth anniversary of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, stated the following succinctly: "To attack us, the terrorists only have to be right once; to stop them, we need to be right 100 percent of the time." He was right then, and "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance," Thomas Jefferson warned. But it wasn't vigilance that saved lives this time around, just like it wasn't vigilance that saved the people on an airliner on Christmas Day last year. Again, like this potential attack, it was thwarted by observant civilians. Shahzad was on a no-fly list, and still managed to get on a plane to escape. Hell, he bought his ticket on the way to the airport.

Again, the fact this attack was stopped wasn't due to the administration being vigilant. It was due to luck, and unfortunately, luck has a tendency to run out. President Bush left all of the security measures in place when he left office, and Barry has busied himself in dismantling quite a few of those initiatives in an effort to make nice with our enemy. This shows the utter obtuseness of the president. You can't make nice with our enemy. They want to hurt us in ways we can only imagine, and this past weekend they almost succeeded. Granted, bomb disposal people from the FBI and NYPD have stated that the bomb was constructed in an "amateurish" fashion, and likely wouldn't have exploded the way Shahzad had planned it. However, it would have killed or injured a few around the SUV, and had it gone off as planned, the initial casualties would have been the tip of the iceberg. The bomb was designed to create maximum carnage as the first-responders arrived on scene. It could've been really bad, folks. But the administration should be accepting the accolades the media is heaping on them.

They didn't do squat to prevent this. It was an anonymous street vendor that gave the investigators the intelligence they needed to track this guy down. Maybe we ought to make him the Secretary of Homeland Security. After all, he couldn't do any worse than Janet Incompetano has.

Publius II


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