What's Next After Failed NYC Car Bomb

Learning lessons about U.S. counterterrorism

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It's still not clear who was responsible for the failed car bomb in Times Square on Saturday night. Police say that surveillance video shows a white male in his 40s leaving the area near the Nissan SUV. A Pakistani Taliban group has claimed responsibility, but U.S. officials say it's probably not true. Whoever it was, what's next for the U.S. and for officials searching out the suspect?

  • All but Certain They Will Discover Who's Behind It  The New Yorker's Steve Coll writes, "About the only thing that can be said at this stage about the car bomb, or incendiary device, placed in Times Square last night is that the police will almost certainly figure out where it came from and who was involved. Everything about the circumstantial evidence--particularly the device itself--suggests amateurism." Coll explains "why terrorist groups, particularly those associated with Al Qaeda, had not carried out any attacks inside the United States since September 11th."
The strength of American counterterrorism operations lies in its forensic and investigative abilities after an attack takes place. In effect, when a terrorist group, large or small, sets off a bomb, it temporarily lights up its own network by exposing the forensic trail leading back from the event.
  • Don't Hold KSM Trial in New York   Bill Burck and former Bush White House spokesperson Dana Perino write in the National Review, "it should remind us that the federal officials who continue to insist that New York City is the best place to try KSM and other 9/11 terrorists are, frankly, out of their minds. Attorney General Eric Holder remains delusional on this front, as he has continued to say that a civilian trial in New York remains on the table, despite the uniform protest of all major New York public officials from the mayor to the police chief to the governor. New York is the world's number-one terrorist target, and has been since at least he first World Trade Center bombing in 1993."
  • 'Celebrate' U.S Counterterrorism  The New Republic's Jonathan Chait calls this "another piece of evidence of al Qaeda's severely degraded capability of launching attacks on American soil, where leaving a smoke-filled car in Manhattan is an operation worth boasting about. The Christmas bombing likewise failed on account of miserably low quality. I'm not making an argument for complacency. It's obvious that al Qaeda wants to kill as many Americans as possible. But it's equally obvious that our counter-terrorism strategy is actually working. We should not feel hesitant to celebrate success."
  • We Need More 'Aggressive' Counterterrorism The Wall Street Journal insists, "it is evident that we should be willing to err on the side of being aggressive in surveilling and catching such people before their bombs begin to smolder. It is not possible to catch all of them. It should be possible to ensure that the odds of protecting the American public are as strong as we are able to make them."
  • Midtown NYC Gets Security Upgrade  The New York Times' Michael Schmidt reports, "The Police Department has been planning a high-tech security network for Midtown Manhattan involving surveillance cameras, license plate readers and chemical sensors. ... The network, patterned after one under development in Lower Manhattan, would eventually use public and private security cameras and license plate readers and would be able to record and track every vehicle moving between 34th and 59th Streets, river to river."
  • In Times Square, Back to Business  Time's Howard Chua-Eoan reports, "Times Square is already shaking off the latest incident as well as the earlier ones, speeding back to the unbridled commerce that makes it the bustling, slightly seamy tourist wonderland where, as the song '42nd Street' goes, 'the underworld can meet the elite.'"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.