Times Square: Axles of evil, part deux
I’ll say it again: We’re lucky terrorists are such boneheads.
It didn’t take the FBI long to trace an axle part it found in the Trade Center to the bombers (although it would take awhile to get the ringleader).
Then there are the seven Afghans in the Najibullah Zazi case last year, who tried to rent a truck at a Queens U-Haul without credit cards or IDs. The manager, a bit suspicious about the bearded ones, called the police.
The latest entry in the annals of terr-perp stupidity comes from Times Square this weekend. Somebody connected to the Nissan Pathfinder carrying the bomb, police say, tried to file off the SUV’s VIN, or vehicle identification number -- as if it couldn’t be easily recaptured or found elsewhere.
“They make a lot of mistakes, even when they’re successful,” Mike Sheehan said to me Sunday afternoon.
In the 1990s, Sheehan headed the counterterrorism operations of both the NYPD and the State Department.
In his 2008 book, “Crush the Cell: How to Defeat Terrorism Without Terrorizing Ourselves,” he devotes an entire chapter to the general idiocy of these guys.
With one big exception, he says -- the Sept. 11 attacks, brilliantly executed -- Islamist terrorists succeed not because they’re such evil geniuses, but because we’re just not paying enough attention.
Take the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Nairobi.
One of the bombers jumped out of the truck and ordered the guard to open the gate, but he forgot his weapon. The driver, meanwhile, ran away with no money, passport or plan to escape Kenya.
If the truck had gotten inside the compound, the damage and death toll would have been far worse.
“Due to bungling on the part of several of the terrorist operatives immediately before and after the attack, it was determined within days that this plot was the handiwork of an organization, little known outside of the intelligence community, called al Qaeda,” Sheehan writes.
It was only a matter of time before the plotters were rolled up.
Sheehan also cites the USS Cole attack, in Aden in October 2000.
The first terrorist boat, overloaded, sunk. Lax security procedures let the next one slide right up to the hull.
Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, of course, showed that stupidity is not confined to jihadis.
After his lethal artwork, McVeigh checked into a motel in Junction City, Kan., where he had rented the truck for his bomb under his own name.
"FBI agents traced the truck to a Junction City body shop that leased it after they recovered its vehicle identification number from the truck's rear axle, which was blown a block away from the blast," the Associated Press said.
The axle done him in.
McVeigh was convicted on federal bombing charges and executed in 2001.
| May 3, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: Intelligence, Justice/FBI
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