HERE'S a fun rainy-day activity for the kids: have 'em read this article--as I write it occupies the Sweet Spot on the Times homepage--and Find the Evidence! Have them circle anything that isn't rank speculation, groundless fear-mongering, a factoid already in evidence, or downright risible given the facts of the case. First one to one wins.
Look, guys: these are the people who brought you the Iraq war intel, the Color Coded Terror Alert System, and the death or capture of enough #2 Men in al-Qaeda to fill the Rose Bowl. I'm not saying you don't report the Twinkee filling "American officials" are squeezing out; I'm just saying you might give some indication that you realize some air might've gotten whipped into the mix at some point.
WASHINGTON — American officials said Wednesday that it was very likely that a radical group once thought unable to attack the United States had played a role in the bombing attempt in Times Square, elevating concerns about whether other militant groups could deliver at least a glancing blow on American soil.
A glancing blow?
Officials said that after two days of intense questioning of the bombing suspect, Faisal Shahzad, evidence was mounting that the group, the Pakistani Taliban, had helped inspire and train Mr. Shahzad in the months before he is alleged to have parked an explosives-filled sport utility vehicle in a busy Manhattan intersection on Saturday night. Officials said Mr. Shahzad had discussed his contacts with the group, and investigators had accumulated other evidence that they would not disclose.
Yeah. Because they hope it will lead them right to The Pakistani Taliban's #2 Man.
Okay, so, a couple things: one, what sort of terrorist threat is supposed to come from an organization which names itself like a Bush administration (I or II) military operation in reverse? "Operation Eternal Freedom From Above". "Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia". "The Pakistani Taliban". "Quad Cities Islamofascist Club". It's like the DYMO™ label you'd stick on your collection of terrorists if you wanted to keep them organized. Two, how is it the Couldabomber threat has increased the farther we are away from it, y'know, not exploding an' killing all those people? Are we now supposed to treat the initial reports of amateurishness as inoperative? Propane tanks, fireworks, gasoline, and (non-explosive) fertilizer. That's not "an explosives-filled sport utility vehicle"; it's a wish list for an incompetent 13-year-old suburban kid who's planning on offing some neighborhood pets. It's actually "a vehicle filled with shit that might explode, under certain (and very different) circumstances". What sort of training do you need for that? We're certainly not privy to all the info, but in the absence of any American officials saying otherwise, you appear to have a guy who filled his beater car with stuff that would explode, or he thought would explode, based on nothing more than a cursory familiarity with the concept of "fertilizer bomb", left some ignition source burning, and took off. Lo! and Behold! somebody in Times Fucking Square noticed the thing smoking and sounded the alarm. I guess that's something no amount of high-tech terror training could have prepared you for, but what's next? The M-80s go off? Which accomplishes what? Somebody twists an ankle on the curb while running away? Vast throngs gather around a strange vehicle to enjoy the unscheduled fireworks display? And then what? They set off the gasoline? Maybe. Given the apparent level of expertise we've seen up to now I'm betting against it, but if so, sure, big explosion. Enough to set off the propane tanks? Maybe, assuming the fire burns long and hot enough, at which point you might kill or injure a responding fireman or two, but for any of this to've killed large numbers of civilians they'd practically have had to volunteer.
And, look, as for The Pakistani Taliban "inspiring" Mr. Shahzad's murderous intentions, wouldn't five minutes reading Red State have accomplished the same thing?
The failed attack has produced a flurry of other proposals to tighten security procedures, including calls by members of Congress to more closely scrutinize passengers who buy tickets with cash, as Mr. Shahzad did. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Senator Scott Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, proposed stripping terrorism suspects of American citizenship
Which reminds me: thanks again, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg asked Congress to block the sale of firearms and explosives to those on terrorist watch lists.
Which reminds me: whatever happened to John Ashcroft?
One issue that investigators are vigorously pursuing is who provided Mr. Shahzad cash to buy the S.U.V. and his plane ticket to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. “Somebody’s financially sponsoring him, and that’s the link we’re pursuing,” one official said. “And that would take you on the logic train back to Pak-Taliban authorizations,” the official said, referring to the group.
A twenty-year-old Nissan Pathfinder and a $1000 ticket to Dubai. Plus snacks and tips. Are we sure Goldfinger was killed when he was sucked out of that plane?
American officials said it had become increasingly difficult to separate the operations of the militant groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The region, they said, has become a stew of like-minded organizations plotting attacks in Pakistani cities, across the border into Afghanistan, and on targets in Western Europe and the United States.
Well, it's a good thing we're there, then.
The C.I.A.’s drone program in Pakistan, which was accelerated in 2008 and expanded by President Obama last year, has enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Washington in part because it was perceived as eliminating dangerous militants while keeping Americans safe.
Well, it's a good thing we're there, then.
Denis McDonough, the chief of staff for the National Security Council, said the Times Square attempted bombing showed that Pakistan and the United States faced a common enemy, calling it “a pretty stark reminder that the same collection of terrorists that are threatening them are threatening us.”
And the only thing standing between us and them is a massive military, a nuclear arsenal, and our Strategic Steet-Corner Vendor reserves.
But the attack in December on a C.I.A. base in Afghanistan, and now possibly the failed S.U.V. attack in Manhattan, are reminders that the drones’ very success may be provoking a costly response.
Reminders? Then could you please remind me the first time that possibility was part of the national debate on our Mideast adventurism?