Inside Opinion

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Tag: terrorism


“53” beats “24”

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly ought to give American counter-terrorism more credit.

By way of praising the quick arrest of suspected Times Square bomber, Kelly noted that investigators tracked Faisal Shahzad down in 53 hours and 20 minutes and compared that to the way Jack Bauer of television’s “24” rolls up terror plots a lot faster. “But in the real world, 53 hours is a – is a pretty good number.”

Except the bad guys score more often in “24.” Bauer’s counter-terrorism unit has failed to prevent the release of deadly virus in a Los Angeles hotel, the

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Small-timers: The new face of terrorism?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Terrorism and competence don’t always coincide, thank goodness.

Whoever was behind it, the attempted car bombing in New York’s Times Square last weekend was clearly an act of terror. A deadly explosion in the middle of Manhattan would have created considerable anxiety in the nation’s leading city. The FBI is now investigating the possible involvement of international terrorism.

Fortunately, it was the work of a first-class bungler. The black SUV parked amid the crowds of Times Square held three patio grill-sized tanks of propane, two jugs of gasoline, firecrackers and 100 pounds of fertilizer.
This was more Three Stooges than Hollywood thriller. The fertilizer was not the kind that blows up. The propane might have been serious business, but the perpetrator bungled the detonation.
And firecrackers?

It’s somewhat reminiscent of the attempted Christmas bombing of a Detroit-bound jet, in which the would-be terrorist tried to set off an explosive hidden in his pants and wound up only setting his legs on fire.
And that was reminiscent of “shoe-bomber” Richard Reid’s failed attempt in 2001 to trigger explosives in his boots after he’d apparently deactivated them with his sweaty feet. Any explosion on an aircraft could easily kill everyone on board, but you’ve first got to get the bomb to go off.

It increasingly looks as if meticulously planned and flawlessly executed monstrosities like the 9/11 and London subway bombings will be rare in the war against terror. The United States is more likely to see lots of small-time attacks carried out by “lone wolves” and tiny groups with minimal connections to international organizations.
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Next terror attack, hold the Miranda warning

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The worst case is that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day – was one of multiple would-be terrorists probing for weaknesses in American security. Which means that other attacks might follow.

Abdulmutallab reportedly trained with al-Qaida in Yemen. It would be nice to know exactly who trained him, whom he trained with, who devised the plans, who helped him travel and what he knew of other potential attacks. That would be actionable intelligence, the Holy Grail of counter-terrorism.

But U.S. authorities may never get that intelligence, because the FBI insisted on treating Abdulmutallab as a common criminal and reading him his Miranda rights within hours of his arrest. This looks like a stunning display of soft-headedness by supposedly tough-minded people responsible for the nation’s security.
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Eight years later, dots still unconnected

Eight years later, dots still unconnected.

In a mere week and a half, the Obama administration’s line on the Christmas Day terror attempt has undergone a remarkable evolution.

The weekend before last, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano asserted that Nigerian-born Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was acting alone. President Obama described him as “an isolated extremist.”

How did they know? They didn’t. A few days later, Obama said that al-Qaida “trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America.”

On Tuesday came something far more disturbing. Obama said explicitly that U.S. intelligence had reports of Abdulmutallab’s ties to al-Qaida prior to the attack, “but our intelligence community failed to connect those dots, which would have placed the suspect on the no-fly list.”
If that’s true, it’s shocking news eight years after 9/11.
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Air terror came way too close this time

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

There’s something to be said for getting shot at without getting hit. It tends to focus the mind.

Americans are once again very focused on airline security since Friday’s foiled bombing of a Detroit-bound jetliner. The near-catastrophic suicide attack has reminded us that there are plenty of anti-American terrorists out there – and still plenty of ways we could be doing a better job of stopping them.

That particular attack was reportedly stopped by a malfunctioning detonator and a passenger who lunged over seats to tackle Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. It should have been stopped much earlier, by denying the Nigerian suspect a visa to visit the United States in the first place. His father, a retired Nigerian bank chairman, had recently warned the American embassy in Lagos that his son may have fallen in with terrorists.

Sounds like a very credible source, but the red flag only put Abdulmutallab on the Department of Homeland Security’s longest and least reliable watch list – not the “no fly” list that could have barred him from both a visa and the flight. One Obama official said there was “insufficient derogatory evidence available” to look more closely at him.

That makes it sound as if the government bears the burden of proving the threat from a suspected militant. Actually, someone like Abdulmutallab – a foreigner on foreign soil – has no right whatsoever to enter the United States; the United States can grant that privilege, or not, on its own terms. Its own terms should certainly include a clean bill of health with regard to suspected terror ties.
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Obama picked right gamble in Afghanistan

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Big decisions are risky decisions. President Obama took the right risks at West Point on Tuesday when he outlined his plans for a troop surge in Afghanistan.

The obvious gamble is that any military venture in Afghanistan can turn out well. There’s a long history of foreign interventions coming to grief in that remote, mountainous, tribal country.

But the earlier interventions – such as the ill-fated Soviet occupation of the 1980s – were attempts to turn the country into a colony or dominion. The United States and its NATO allies aren’t trying to own Afghanistan, which means the intervention can be much more limited in its goals and duration – which in turn enhances the chances of success.

The gambles Obama chose not to take were to either abandon the country or try to get by – as the Bush administration did – with an inadequate force on the ground. The end result in both cases would be a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Taliban, whose leaders are implacably hostile to the United States, liberal democracy, Western civilization – anything but the inhuman, primitive theocracy they are trying to resurrect from the Dark Ages.
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KSM mistrial!

In case you haven’t heard, the president of the United States just declared accused 9/11 terrorist Khalid Sheik Mohammed guilty and even announced what his sentence will be.

I’m not kidding. A newsman asked President Barack Obama if he understands why ordinary Americans are so offended that Mohammed (“KSM” in Newspeak) is receiving constitutional rights due only to American citizens. Obama replied: “I don’t think it will be offensive at all when he is convicted and when the death penalty is applied.”

Oh really?

Can you imagine the uproar if President Bush had assured Americans that an untried defendant in a federal court would certainly be “convicted” and receive the “death penalty” months before he even went on trial? Such a blunder would no doubt be ascribed to Bush’s “stupidity.” Read more »