Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Is the Anti-Terrorism Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?

The NYT has two articles on its front webpage, one highlighting the successful arrest of Faisal Shahzad and the other focused on how he almost got away.  Sort of. Perhaps the NYT is providing both views to allow one to read the story that confirms one's own attitudes.

The events do provide some support for the stupid terrorist argument--that the US has not suffered as much terrorism as it could have because some of these guys are not too bright.  What did Shahzad do wrong?  Well, not to provide advice to terrorists, but since AQ is a learning organization, I am sure these mistakes will be identified (and perhaps repeated anyway):
  • He left his keys in the vehicle.  Including one that fit into his front door at home.
  • There is more than one VIN number on a vehicle so taking the most obvious one is not going to cut it.
    • While this was a break in the case, it was an entirely predictable one (that is, identifying the vehicle) as the FBI was able to identify the rental trucks that were destroyed in Oklahoma City and the first World Trade Center attack.
  • Hopping onto a flight to Dubai is not a very subtle way to sneak out of the country.
    • Even if the plane had taken off with him, there would was plenty of time to make the plane land back in NY, to land somewhere along the way, or arrest the guy in Dubai.  So, even him getting on the plane just made him easier to catch (as Jack, Kate, and the others found out last night).
  •  The bomb was poorly designed.
  •  The internet seems to be a place where records do not disappear.  
  • The car sale
    • Just like the guys who had no interest in landing jet planes, this guy did not care about whether the vehicle would hold up for the long run.  Engine?  Who cares?
The only surprise to me is that the FBI lost him after finding him.  Given what we all see on TV and the movies, I am surprised that they could not and did not place a tracking device on the car and/or use multiple vehicles to tail him.  Where are Spenser and Hawk when you need them?

We should not over- or under-estimate the work of the police and Feds at this point.  The trail was an easy one to follow, but they followed it quickly and efficiently, with the exception of their failure to tail the suspect.

No comments: