May 10, 2010
On Saturday, May 1, an SUV containing propane, gasoline and perhaps some fertilizer was left in New York’s Times Square at about 6:30 p.m. – a very busy place and time. Smoke was seen, but it didn’t explode.
Two days later FBI agents arrested a suspect, Faisal Shahzad, on an airplane about to take off from New York’s JFK airport.
Shahzad had practically left behind a trail for the FBI to follow. The vehicle ID number on the SUV’s engine, which was not changed, identified the car’s previous owner – to whom Shahzad had given his own e-mail address and cell phone number. And Shahzad had left his keys, including the one to his apartment in Connecticut, in the SUV.
When agents picked him up on the airplane, Shahzad asked: “What took you so long? I was expecting this. Are you FBI or NYPD?” He not only confessed to the bombing attempt right away but, according to the FBI, gave “valuable information” about contacts and bomb-making training in Pakistan.
If Shahzad is a terrorist, he certainly is an amateur. Not to mention talkative.
All this was also true for Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, who was caught on an international flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day with explosives in his underwear.
Abdulmuttalab, a Nigerian, confessed to being trained in Yemen – which was convenient for the U.S. government at a time when the U.S. was bombing Yemen. Shahzad’s failed attack comes at a time when another U.S. bombing campaign, the one in Pakistan, has been in the news because of the high number of civilian casualties it has produced.
Maybe Abdulmuttalab and Shahzad were amateurs acting alone. Maybe they were part of terrorist networks. Or maybe they were lured into a terrorist act by government agents who made sure their bombs were useless. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time the U.S. government has set up people.
We may never know for sure. But there is something we do know: the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the U.S. bombing of these countries as well as Yemen and Pakistan, have been causing enormous suffering for the populations of these areas – and almost certainly pushing an increasing number of people to react.