The Times Square terrorist attack

Yes, where have I been on that.

I’ve been commenting rather extensively about it at Bruce McQuain’s blog (here, here, and here, latest thread first).

The comments section at Bruce’s place is fast and my comments are indeed made in a hurry. The threads are a bit real time in that we know a lot more for certain now about the terrorist, while even yesterday we were still working off of leaks and speculation.

In places I use the term “illegal combatant” or “illegal enemy combatant” where the preferred term is “unlawful combatant” or “unlawful enemy combatant.”

I also use the acronym CINC, which most readers know stands for Commander-in-Chief.

All in all, I think that my comments are pretty on point, as are many of those made by Bruce and the other comment-makers, and if you take time to read through them and try to discern the context, you will find them useful. I comment there as Martin McPhillips, lest there be any confusion.

My primary comment, which overrides everything else, is that once the guy got the bomb to the target, Times Square, the counterterrorism effort had failed. So, while it’s very good that he was caught after the fact and a very big piece of luck that he was an idiot who didn’t know how to make a bomb, this goes down as a major failure for U.S. counterterrorism efforts. And now that we know how many signals the suspect gave off during his journey to this attempt, the real indictment in this case is against the national security outfits responsible for missing this operation. The individual should have been detected and stopped well before he began his drive into Manhattan.

At points along the way in the comments you’ll see why I think that we are no longer stopping these plots before they are set in motion to the targets. The failure here is consistent with the similar failure to detect the Christmas Day underwear bomber (whose father had earlier reported him to a U.S. Embassy) and the Ft. Hood shooter, who did everything but call in advance and announce that he was coming to murder soldiers.

The pattern that should be of concern here is not so much the pattern of the terrorists, but rather the pattern of failures at counterterrorism.

There are many secondary ways to engage in counterterrorism, including nicey-nice public diplomacy. But there is only one primary way to engage it. That way is to stay with an aggressive forward position, to infiltrate, to gather immediate real time human and signals/satellite intelligence, to maintain a position ahead of the curve, and to do it to them before they do it to us. That does not simply boil down to using Predator Drones in Afghanistan. That’s only an effect of putting the puzzle together. There is also the invaluable use of fear against political leaders, local, regional, and national, in countries where terrorists gather, train, and plot. They must know and fear that they will be held responsible.

That’s the sort of pressure that must be kept up, because the next SUV in Times Square is not likely going to be a dud, and it could be a lot worse than your standard car bomb.

Right now there is a malfunction in U.S. counterterrorism and I think that it starts at the top. In other words the soft talk and soft positions reflect a real softness in effect, and that is reckless and dangerous.

More: And then there is this weird unseriousness, reported by Andy McCarthy.

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