Federal and police investigators are trying feverishly to learn what a Pakistani-American named Faisal Shahzad did in his attempt to bomb Times Square last weekend.
This is an important investigation, and my hat is off to federal law enforcement and the New York police for capturing this thug.
As these investigators try to uncover information about Shahzad and his plot, I’d like to look at this another way.
I want to know this: If al-Qaida did control Shahzad, what did the terror organization learn from its operative’s mission?
This is a reasonable question that presumes Shahzad was part of a larger effort. I am not saying he was, simply “what if he was?”
Press reports suggest otherwise — that Shahzad was nothing more than a lone wolf terror operative.
The first evidence of this “lone bomber theory” comes from Shahzad himself.
Press reports indicate that, when arrested, he immediately ignored his Miranda rights to tell investigators he acted alone.
When confronted on the Emirates jet, he was quoted as saying to federal agents, "I was expecting you. Are you NYPD or FBI?"
Reuters reported Wednesday that “Shahzad waived his right to an initial court appearance within 48 hours of his arrest and other U.S. constitutional rights, a U.S. official and sources said.”
"(Shahzad) was giving them intricate details as to what he did overseas," the wire service quoted a law enforcement source close to the probe. "There was a determination that there wasn't anyone else in the (New York) area to target."
I am not sure why, in the first 24 hours of his arrest, we seemingly should take Shahzad’s word that he did it alone and no one helped him.
We have an outline of his activities that undermine such a claim:
Shahzad quit his marketing job in Connecticut in June of 2009. His financial condition was described as “bankrupt” as his home moved into foreclosure. Shortly thereafter, he traveled to Pakistan and stayed there for at least five months and was apparently trained by terrorists.
He returned to the United States on Feb. 3. He bought a used Nissan Pathfinder SUV for $1,300 cash, though he didn’t have a regular job. He also bought rudimentary materials for a bomb, constructed it, and tried to explode it in Times Square. He then fled the scene. He later showed up at JFK airport with enough cash to buy a one-way ticket to Pakistan.
Knowing these facts, why should anyone jump to the conclusion that Shahzad has acted on in his own initiative and financing?
Some are downplaying this bomb plot because the bomb was constructed amateurishly.
Shahzad left an easy trail from his ownership of the SUV to cell phone records linking him to the previous owner.
And he was captured relatively quickly.
Compared with the relatively sophisticated attacks of Sept. 11, which were planned for years and took on a broad scope, Shahzad’s terror plot seems almost childish.
Let’s imagine for a second that al-Qaida did send Shahzad as a sacrificial lamb to test how serious and strong our defenses against terror agents were — almost a decade after the 9/11 attacks.
Al-Qaida would have been pleasantly surprised from the results of such a test mission.
Here are some things al-Qaida could have found to be true:
- A U.S. national moved back to Pakistan, lived in areas controlled by terrorists and was trained by them, then easily re-entered the United States.
- After returning to the United States, their OPERATIVE easily moved about the New York area without detection by intelligence or law enforcement agencies. He was able to buy equipment, albeit rudimentary, to construct a bomb.
- OPERATIVE was easily able to enter one of the MOST celebrated locations in America, to do a test run of the bombing.
- Days later OPERATIVE was able, again without detection, to drive an SUV stuffed with bomb making materials and park it directly in Times Square. OPERATIVE escaped safely.
- Despite the fact that Times Square has been talked about as a major terror target for years, authorities reacted only after local vendors saw a suspicious car. [ Judith Miller reports in her blog post, “10 Questions About Shahzad and Times Square,” about 80 surveillance cameras that dot Times Square never captured him leaving the scene. She wonders why the New York police never invested in surveillance cameras like London has. Such cameras are relatively inexpensive.]
- Though capture of OPERATIVE took place relatively quickly after the attempt, nothing authorities did would have PREVENTED a major terror attack in Times Square. Al-Qaida could have successfully detonated a weapon of mass destruction using OPERATIVE’s SUV.
- Authorities successfully apprehended OPERATIVE in a short period, though OPERATIVE used limited effort to avoid detection.
- OPERATIVE was captured on outbound jet at JFK airport. OPERATIVE came close to exiting the U.S. without detection, as the “No Fly List” system did not work as planned. Had OPERATIVE tried to leave the United States within 24 hours of his bomb attempt, OPERATIVE may have exited the country without being captured.
- Authorities quickly accepted OPERATIVE’s claim he acted alone.
So, even if al-Qaida or another terror group did not handle Shahzad, such groups still could have discovered how many holes remain in our defenses here on the homefront, just a few miles from ground zero.
Last month, President Obama hosted a nuclear nonproliferation conference in Washington. He warned that al-Qaida is attempting to acquire materials to develop a nuclear device or a so-called “dirty bomb.”
In this month’s edition of Newsmax magazine, our cover story, “Nuclear D-Day,”
details the serious threat of such an attack.
Despite claims to the contrary, the failed plot by Faisal Shahzad should raise alarm bells about our vulnerability to such a future attack, regardless of whether he acted alone.
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