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One Man, One Bomb: New Threat?

Car bombs in the USA? Top national security experts weigh whether “one man, one bomb” is the new face of terrorism.

The New York Police Department's Emergency Service Unit patrols the financial district in New York on Friday, May 7, 2010. (AP)

There was a straight-line connection drawn yesterday between the outback of Pakistan and the May 1 car bomb attempt in New York’s Times Square. 

Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday that the U.S. now has evidence that the Pakistan Taliban was behind the bungled Times Square attack. 

“Intimately involved,” said Holder, in the attempt by Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad to blow up gasoline and propane tanks in the heart of New York. 

The Obama administration has been raining drone attacks on militants in Pakistan. Now, the pushback. 

This Hour, On Point: Pakistan, and car bombs in America.

Guests:

Michael Sheehan, former deputy commissioner for counterterrorism with the New York Police Department. He’s a security consultant and the director of the Madison Policy Forum, a national security policy group. He’s also a former member of the National Security Council and a former State Department senior counterterrorism adviser.

Daniel Byman, senior fellow of Foreign Policy at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He’s author of The Five Front War: The Better Way to Fight Global Jihad and Deadly Connections: States that Sponsor Terrorism. He’s written a new piece for Brookings about Al Qaeda affiliates.

Mosharraf Zaidi joins us from Islamabad, Pakistan, where he’s a columnist for Pakistan’s biggest English-language newspaper, The News, and for the Egyptian paper al-Shorouk. His work also appears in the Far Eastern Economic Review. Read his sharply critical piece on Pakistan’s internal security problems, in which he writes, “In 2009 alone, more than 2,227 civilians have been killed in terrorist attacks in Pakistan. One thousand soldiers have laid their lives on the line defending this country.” His web site is http://www.mosharrafzaidi.com/.

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  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Never forget Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. It’s not just Islamic extremists, it’s also fringe hate groups here.

  • Todd

    “Never forget Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.”
    Posted by Richard

    Which equals two, not one—even IF they had been the only parties responsible for causing that tragic false-flag event.

  • Michael

    as well as

    someone on another site made this point

    “the murders of President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, the Oklahoma Federal Building bombing, the murder of Dr. Bernard Slepian in his own home in 1998, the bombing of the Olympics in Centennial park (the first of four bombings) by Eric Rudolph, the Columbine High School shootings, the murder of Dr. George Tiller by a religious fanatic, the flying of the airplane into the Internal Revenue Service building in Texas, and the Hutaree Militia? Need I go on? How can you possibly compose a piece on domestic terrorism and completely dismiss these and so many other incidents?”

    Saban Center is hardly anything to be creditable, I listen to some of theses supposed “experts” spew one-sided propaganda and biased TOLN love these types of folks. I’m sure the folks will not disappoint either. According the dina temple raston and some experts your only a terrorist or domestic one if your black or brown if your white it can’t be. I’m pretty sure as well that Drone attacks on civilians would be looked at by the people being attacked as terrorism as well.

    Keep the massive in fear (as long as if foreign) it much easier to control them and pass laws to take away there freedoms little by little hell their even beg you to do it to feel alittle safer.

  • George Warner

    “Never forget Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. It’s not just Islamic extremists, it’s also fringe hate groups here.” Richard

    Richard is a pro Islamic fool.

    Sinc ethe mid 90′s there have been many attempts to kill Americans in the US by Islamic terrorists.

    Too many of them have been suscessful with thousands of American dead.

    It’s not just car bombs that are the problem, it’s also Muslim extemists with guns.

  • jeffe

    Since the mid 90’s there have been many attempts to kill Americans in the US by Islamic terrorists.

    Too many of them have been suscessful (successful) with thousands of American dead.

    It’s not just car bombs that are the problem, it’s also Muslim extemists (extremist) with guns.
    Posted by George Warner

    Thousands of American dead? Can you prove this? Other than the the horror of 9/11 I don’t see any evidence of this.

    The fact is you are more likely to be struck by lighting or die in a car accident than killed by a terrorist, foreign or domestic.

    Fear mongering does not help anyone. We now have the president of the United States advocating for the rights of alleged criminals being removed if they are deemed a terrorist. If you ask me this a dangerous road to go down and if it becomes law it will be abused by over zealous prosecutors.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Richard is a pro Islamic fool.

    I’m not sure how citing an act of American terrorism makes me a pro Islamic fool. I’m also worried about Tea Baggers with guns on the DC Mall.

  • jeffe

    George if you meant the thousands of American solders who have died, yes this is the result of our flawed foreign policy in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Fighting terrorist should be a police action and not about sending hundreds of thousands of troops into country. Before people start pointing to Iraq being a success, one needs to understand that we are not out of the woods there by a long shot. Here is one statistic we can all agree on: we have been at war now for over 9 years and there does not seem to be an end in sight for this.

    Since 9/11 more Muslims have died at the hand of terrorist than American citizens. Also there have been more successful terrorist bombings in Europe (Britain, Spain) than here. Europe has had more deaths at the hand of terrorist than we have since 9/11.

  • Michael

    the likelihood of being attack by a terrorist is 1 out of 10408947 compare to the odds of lighting 1 out of 500000

    http://gizmodo.com/5435954/the-true-odds-of-airborne-terror-chart

    or

    Pew research found there is one troubling statistic: 6% of US Muslims – and 15% of US Muslims under 30 – believe that “bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” are “often or sometimes justified”. Sounds bad, but what happens when you ask the same question of non-Muslim Americans? Turns out that 24% of all Americans agreed – four times the 6% of US Muslims who share that view. So are US Muslims more peaceful than their non-Muslim neighbors?

    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/483/muslim-americans

    Pew Study Sees Muslim Americans Assimilating(Google NPR with the above header)

  • cory

    We are going to see more and more of this as the U.S. continues it’s slide into the morass of worldwide poverty. Many Americans will not handle our inevitable decline well, and some will react with acts of violence.

    No amount of intelligence or police work can prevent spontaneous acts of violence by those who begin to unravel along with the world around them. The world could be about to become a very dangerous and unpredictable place.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Think of the response we expect of the administration/ presidency when the oil in the Gulf of Mexico threatens the way of life of many thousands and ecological disaster. Compare that to the response we expect to a successful (or even unsuccessful) terrorist attack. After 9/11 “we” might have been “satisfied” if al kaeda had been obliterated, “head” to foot, in the mountains of Afghanistan. But failing that, our need to even the score migrated over to Baghdad and Iraq. (What would Sigmund Freud say about that? Displacement syndrome?)
    Consider our view of Israel’s reaction to Palestinian terrorism. To me, it can look like “upping the ante,” like tit-for-tat that further propagates the evil.
    The terrible truth is our media machine, from the internet that allows militants to collaborate globally and sight unseen, to the network news that gorges on the spectacular, will do enough publicity to make an act of terrorism seem personal, and enrage everyone.
    In the 20th century, people did not wage publicity campaigns; they died by the hundreds of millions in practically invisible ways. Cannon fodder.
    We need to keep perspective.

  • MIchael

    Odds of being killed in the U.S. on anything other than Terrorism
    http://www.funny2.com/odds.htm

    http://reason.com/archives/2006/08/11/dont-be-terrorized

    or you can use this study by the e National Safety Council

    Even if terrorists were able to pull off one attack per year on the scale of the 9/11 atrocity, that would mean your one-year risk would be one in 100,000 and your lifetime risk would be about one in 1300. (300,000,000 ÷ 3,000 = 100,000 ÷ 78 years = 1282) In other words, your risk of dying in a plausible terrorist attack is much lower than your risk of dying in a car accident, by walking across the street, by drowning, in a fire, by falling, or by being murdered.

    So do these numbers comfort you? If not, that’s a problem. Already, security measures—pervasive ID checkpoints, metal detectors, and phalanxes of security guards—increasingly clot the pathways of our public lives. It’s easy to overreact when an atrocity takes place—to heed those who promise safety if only we will give the authorities the “tools” they want by surrendering to them some of our liberty. As President Franklin Roosevelt in his first inaugural speech said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself— nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” However, with risks this low there is no reason for us not to continue to live our lives as though terrorism doesn’t matter—because it doesn’t really matter. We ultimately vanquish terrorism when we refuse to be terrorized.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Did anyone else notice that Shahzad had had a fine house in southern Connecticut that HAD BEEN FORECLOSED, which is why he now has/had an apartment? That his father had been/is a fairly high officer (captain?) in the Pakistani military? “Things” point to the kind of unraveling that goes on when one generation’s pride begins to feel hollow to the next generation, and whereas the poor cannot “afford” values, the descendants of the powerful/successful can only surpass their parents by reaching for virtue. And so I see Shahzad had had his family here in the USA, but moved them to Pakistan. Maybe that was not foresight. Maybe there is more to that.
    How it is that “radical” militant religion becomes criminal and seems extremely virtuous to highly competitive sorts? Well, consider our non-Muslim change-makers; one has to make a splash. The Titanic is not going to turn by being prayed at.

  • Steve V

    Each year over 11,000 people are killed on our highways as a result of drunk drivers. Over 5000 are killed and 515,000 injured as a result of distracted driving. Smoking kills over 1000 people per day and second hand smoke kills nearly 1000 per week. State government is cutting services daily. Teachers are being dismissed and school standards dropping. We have another disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Etc, Etc. And I’m going to spend how much time listening to the media scare me about terrorism?

  • Todd

    “Why are we discussing this topic again?
    Posted by blond but not stupid

    That’s how propaganda operates, by constant repetition.

  • cory

    Blonde but not stupid,

    It isn’t all that bad of a topic, so long as we don’t get bogged down in anti-Islamic rhetoric. I think this solo bomber phenomenon has a lot more to do with individual desperation and poverty than religious ideology. I guess we’ll see what direction the discussion takes. If it takes the sad, predictable path we will be in total agreement.

  • jeffe

    I think a better topic would how the lack of regulation coupled with BP’s horrific safety and environmental record has played into the current oil spill disaster.

    This spill has put the nail in the coffin for the Gulf states and Louisiana especially. This area will be a mess for decades. This one event does more damage than a car bomb. Billions of dollars is now lost and with it the livelihoods of tens of thousands of citizens.

  • Janet

    I wish the MSM would go into how this guy became a citizen a bit more.

  • Ellen Dibble

    We worry so much about “failed states” becoming homes for terrorist camps (Somalia, Afghanistan…), but we seem to want to cause failure in states that might not be failures till we try to cause that (like Iran where we want sanctions imposed, or North Korea), so we seem to be trying to weaken some states and trying to strengthen others (Afghanistan, Iraq — try it one way, try it the other). And Pakistan? We try both ways there too, it seems to me. Drones and disruption, but on the other hand…

  • prepguy

    Perhaps this bungled bombing was a feint, with Shahzad an unaware patsy, that Radical Islamists picked this boob to conduct a homeland bombing. At best for the terrorists he, in spite of himself, would succeed, and at worst would lull ” decadent ” western civilization into a sense of complacency. Perhaps they’re planning something on the order of 9/11.

  • Carl

    Is there any thought being given to the possibility of the Taliban and other extremists staging these bungled attempts at terrorism to give the u.s. A false sense of security and lower our guard. Could this be a precursor to a truly professional attack a la London subway attack on 7/7? ( I think that was the date??

  • David Henry

    Governments have killed far more people throughout history than terrorists. We should be very careful about where the real danger is.

  • Christopher

    The caller Bob (?) said that, upon seeing the World Trade Center attack, he thought to himself “right now somebody in Washington is coming up with a way to trample civil liberties” (or words to that effect)? *That* was your first thought on that horrible day?! You, sir, should be ashamed of yourself.

  • Prepguy

    Damn Carl, thanks for the reiterartion of the duping theory. If your familiar with American football, consider the screen pass, or a play-action as a metaphor. And I don’t consider this metaphor as a trivializing of this topic.

  • Todd

    “The caller Bob (?) said that, upon seeing the World Trade Center attack, he thought to himself “right now somebody in Washington is coming up with a way to trample civil liberties” (or words to that effect)? *That* was your first thought on that horrible day?! You, sir, should be ashamed of yourself.”
    Posted by Christopher

    There’s no shame in maintaining one’s presence of mind, even in the midst of such a tragic event. It’s good that there are individuals able to keep a clear head and consider the potential consequences. Not everyone convulses into an emotional seizure when tragedy strikes. Moreover, the government’s post-9/11 diminishment of civil liberties is proof that the caller’s concerns were justified.

  • jeffe

    “The caller Bob (?) said that, upon seeing the World Trade Center attack, he thought to himself “right now somebody in Washington is coming up with a way to trample civil liberties” (or words to that effect)? *That* was your first thought on that horrible day?! You, sir, should be ashamed of yourself.”
    Posted by Christopher

    By the way Christopher this caller was expressing a viewpoint after the fact, not on the day it happened as you are assuming. The other thing is this guy has every right to express his thoughts and opinions. Just as you are.

    The soul and substance of what customarily ranks as patriotism is moral cowardice — and always has been.
    - Mark Twain’s Notebook

  • Joseph A. Migliore

    It does not surprise me at all that Shahzad had links to militant Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistani tribal regions. Daaaah…!
    This pattern of U.S. citizens or U.S. resident’s travelling abroad seeking to establish themselves with militant groups abroad, has been a recurring situation; The shuttle drive from Denver, Najibullah Zazi coordinating a bombing in the N.Y.C. subway, the Christmas Day suicide bomber, Umar Farouk Abdul Muttalib and Pakistani American who lived in Chicago, David Coleman Hadley (he changed his original name as to not to draw suspicion for his frequent flights to and from Pakistan), who assisted with the strategy and planning of the Mumbai attacks two years ago these are only a few of the most notable examples.
    They are really pushing Pakistan, an Islamic State to the brink of mayhem and havoc. Until the U.S. government starts re-thinking their strategy in the region, by addressing the root causes, they will continue to have problems here in the U.S.
    They need to look at it from a point of view as to “why is this happening and why is this becoming a growing trend among the Muslim youth, here in the U.S.?” Where they are being recruited and they are following a extremist ideology, subsequently reverting to violence.
    I know why this is all going down, it’s complicated and it would take a detailed narrative to address the dynamics of this growing phenomenon.
    The point is, the U.S. administration needs to acknowledge why this trend is happening? It is my belief, that until the U.S. administration starts recognizing the ‘root-causes’ of the real problem, instead of attempting to ‘treat the symptoms’, my intuition tells me that these types of attacks, (whether they fail or are successful) will continue to happen on a greater scale.
    The U.S. needs to get out of the business of going into Islamic countries, and trying to impose a Western lifestyle by military force, regardless of what it takes, which lately, has been leading to military interventions and conflict.
    I’d start by stopping the drone launched missile strikes in the Tribal regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq and by stopping the air-strikes; where the result has been obvious, on a repeated basis, many local civilian casualties, that main stream U.S. media does not validate.
    The problem is also, that some influential people in the U.S., don’t want to fix this growing trend of radicalization, leading to militant fundamentalist acts in the U.S., they’d rather just categorize everyone as a “terrorist” and label people as an enemy, it’s easier than addressing foreign policy of with addressing the “root-causes of the problem”.

  • Michael

    There’s no shame in maintaining one’s presence of mind, even in the midst of such a tragic event. It’s good that there are individuals able to keep a clear head and consider the potential consequences. Not everyone convulses into an emotional seizure when tragedy strikes. Moreover, the government’s post-9/11 diminishment of civil liberties is proof that the caller’s concerns were justified.

    totally agree on this one, people always seem shocked with others used there fear and emotions against them, at least if they ever figure it out.

  • justanother

    Whoever is behind the plot of bombing on the plane or street of U.S., I’m glad they send those idiots who are have baked and can’t ignite anything, I’m glad no tragedy happened here. But one has to ask why though those failed incidents has happened so many times here, when everywhere else had terrible bombing casualty.

    I suspect those incidents are fabricated by our government, to use fear again to tighten up security and control of U.S. citizens. Think about it, one failed incident, the whole country, everyone has to suffer the agony of traveling now. jeffe is right that the chances of getting hit by other accidents are much higher than the foreign terror’s attack. Our security measure is the product of our obsessive paranoia.

  • http://OnPoint Paul Jevas

    To neuter Islam and embrace the Western view of this violent religion does a tremendous disservice to the millions of “infidels” who are slaughtered annually, those children who live with the threat of Islamic sanctioned Honor Killings who have gone astray from Islam and have been killed in America– as well as the command from Allah, Muhammad, the Koran and their Immams who weekly call for devout Muslims to embrace the guarantee of ‘Paradise’ for the cause of Islam as well as the degradation of Women who are regarded as dogs and donkeys demonstrates loudly your willful ignorance.

  • justanother

    Posted by Joseph A. Migliore, on May 10th, 2010 at 9:09 PM

    Joseph,

    Well put, I share your views.

  • MIchael

    Tripod Suicide Bomber song

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0syfVc9YY3o

  • Tom Quinn

    The Obama Administrations seemingly intentional hype around the NYC attempted bombing is particularly dismaying to me. I see no evidence of any organized terrorist assault in this case. But the government would have one believe that the event was Taliban sponsored. It must occur to anyone familiar with IED devices devised by insurgents that the NYC bomb was not designed by the same people. Is it deja vu or haven’t we experienced the same spin on fear during the Bush term in office? I voted for Obama and am not a happy camper these days.
    By the way….did anyone else think that Obama’s remark (at a comedic roast with Jay Leno) about sending ‘drone aircraft’ (to bomb the homes of that ‘boy rock group’ that his daughters are so fond of) to be in incredibly poor taste?

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