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Posted at 3:15 PM ET, 05/ 2/2010

Military recruiters target of Times Square bomb?

By Jeff Stein

The Nissan Pathfinder that contained a crude bomb was parked only yards from an Armed Forces recruiting station in Times Square that has been the target of an earlier anarchist attack and protests, lending credence to theories that the device was assembled by relative amateurs, not al-Qaeda-affiliated operatives.

But a laboratory examination of the bomb’s wiring will tell authorities much more about its origin, former counterterrorism officials say.

Police said the device, which included three propane canisters and two five-gallon cans of gasoline, was not sophisticated.

“Consumer-grade fireworks, resembling a model known as M-80s, were taped around the outside of the gasoline cans,” The New York Times reported, quoting “several people briefed on the contents of the car.”

“Two clocks with batteries, including one that resembled a child’s toy, were connected to the device by small wires,” the paper’s Web site said.

But investigators were also "trying to identify the contents of a heavy steel case found locked in the vehicle," The Post reported.

“The fireworks seem very screwy,” Charles Faddis, who headed the CIA Counterterrorism Center’s weapons of mass destruction unit when he retired in 2008, said by e-mail.

“The only rational reason to use a firework of some kind would be as a fuse. If you have a simple mechanical fuse, why do you have clocks? Either you are confused-inexperienced-crazy, or you are just messing with people for some reason,” Faddis added.

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“Sounds like homegrown stuff to me …” said another senior former CIA official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because he still consults with the government on sensitive cases, “but if it is [al-Qaeda] related, they have lost significant capability if this is what they are reduced to.”

Former White House terrorism advisor Richard A. Clarke said the incident “was similar to” the car bomb discovered outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub in London in 2007, which involved a Mercedes packed with gasoline.

Police found a cell phone in the car, and a second car bomb was discovered later before it exploded, leading to suspicions that they were the work of al-Qaeda operatives or sympathizers.

“But it’s very amateur,” Clarke said of the Times Square bomb. “It could be a lone wolf, it could be any or all of the above, including a lone-wolf Islamist. We have to remain open-minded about who it could be.”

New York authorities scheduled a press conference for 3 p.m. Sunday.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said Sunday that her department is handling the incident as a potential terrorist attack but saw no larger plot at work.

“Right now, we have no evidence other than it is a one-off,” she said on ABC’s “This Week.”

One hallmark of most al-Qaeda-affiliated attacks has been a willingness of Islamist bombers to go up in flames with their handiwork, whether in Iraq, on airliners, or in the 2005 attacks on the London transport system.

American radicals, in contrast, like to live to see their bombs go off.

A bicyclist tossed a small bomb at the Armed Forces Recruiting Center in Times Square in the middle of the night of March 6, 2008. No one was injured and the recruiting center suffered only minimal damage.

Anonymous letters sent to Capitol Hill, railing against the Iraq War, claimed “We did it.”

The recruiting center, on a small traffic island between Broadway and 7th Avenue, was also the target of an “anarchist” protest in March 2009, according to news reports at the time.

Police and FBI agents are investigating a 911 call placed at 4 a.m. Sunday from a public telephone near Times Square warning of an imminent explosion.

According to a news report, the car bomb in was only “a diversion.”

Faddis, also author of “Willful Neglect, The Dangerous Illusion of Homeland Security,” said “terrorist groups all around the world have run probing ops in the past. Leave a package outside an embassy and then watch how security deals with it.”

“Let's hope it is not the latter, because that would imply some very smart boys have something much bigger in mind,” he said.

By Jeff Stein  | May 2, 2010; 3:15 PM ET
Categories:  Intelligence, Justice/FBI  | Tags:  Al-Qaeda, Weapon of mass destruction  
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Next: Times Square: Axles of evil, part deux


The real story is that nobody with an IQ above moron levels has even bothered to try attacking us in almost 10 years.

Because anyone with normal cognitive ability can -- off the top of their head -- come up with several sure-fire ways to cause mass casualties. But we aren't seeing any successful attacks, just the occasional blundering wild-haired psych case.

But I guess you don't get the big budgets, the impressive titles, and the ego-gratifying powers by speaking realistically about the threat. No, our adversaries are ten feet tall, and we need more, more, more of everything to "keep America safe (tm)."

Posted by: 12008N1 | May 2, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

I always question why this office is located in the heart of Times Squard. I still don't understand the reasons behind this office.

Posted by: samf911 | May 2, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

The Long War Journal: Pakistani Taliban claim credit for failed NYC Times Square car bombing (on a Taliban Youtube channel created on April 30)

Written by Bill Roggio
May 2, 2010 10:24 AM to The Long War Journal

A top Pakistani Taliban commander took credit for yesterday's failed car bomb attack in New York City.

Qari Hussain Mehsud, the top bomb maker for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, said he takes "fully responsibility for the recent attack in the USA." Qari Hussain made the claim on an audiotape accompanied by images that was released on a YouTube website that calls itself the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel.

The tape has yet to be verified, but US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal believe it is legitimate. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel on YouTube was created on April 30. Officials believe it was created to announce the Times Square attack, and Qari Hussain’s statement was pre-recorded.

"This attack is a revenge for the great & valuable martyred leaders of mujahideen," Qari Hussain said. He listed Baitullah Mehsud, the former leader of the Pakistani Taliban who was killed in a Predator strike in August 2009, and Abu Omar al Baghdadi, the former leader of al Qaeda Islamic State of Iraq who was killed by Iraqi forces in mid-April. And although he was not mentioned, an image of Abu Ayyub al Masri, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was also displayed in the images accompanying the audiotape.

Qari Hussain also said the failed attack was "revenge for the Global American interference & terrorism in Muslim countries, especially in Pakistan for Lal Masjid operation," a reference to the July 2008 Pakistani military assault on Islamists holed up in the Red Mosque in Islamabad, as well as Predator strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas and the arrest and detention of Pakistani scientist Aifa Siddique.

Qari Hussain warned NATO that it must denounce the US and apologize for "the massacres in Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistani tribal areas otherwise be prepared for the worst destruction and devastation in their regions."

At the opening of the tape, the failed car bomb was described as a "jaw-breaking blow to Satan USA."

Full article available at:

Posted by: anna_78750 | May 2, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

The shame is that they were too inept to even blow themselves up by mistake. It always works better when that happens.

Posted by: Nymous | May 2, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

They found a CELL PHONE in the car?? I also read in another story that the box contained grocery bags of something like fertilizer. He didn't even take the stuff out of the bags, so they know what grocery it was from. They probably have a gazillion clues to work from. I wouldn't be surprised if they arrested someone within a few days. This is beginning to sound like the story of the bank robber who wrote the holdup note on the back of one of his pre-printed deposit tickets.

This will be interesting. Stay tuned.

Posted by: StanKlein | May 2, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Where was Glen Beck?

Why won't he Admit it was him?

Why is the GOP not saying it Was Glen Beck?

Is Glen Beck too cowardly to admit is was him?

What has Glen Beck got against Broadway?

Posted by: walker1 | May 2, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Probably some Tea bagger nut job.

Posted by: walker1 | May 2, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

All of this sounds so "Code Pink" it's difficult to believe.

Posted by: muawiyah | May 2, 2010 10:51 PM | Report abuse

This article sheds some light on where the investigation is probably going to find paydirt. Look for some nutcase that is disgruntled with the military or has a grudge against this recruiting office. It's another whacko who flunked remedial pyrotechnics and it is reasonable to think (more than likely) he has left a trail of evidence about as long and wide as the oil slick off the Gulf of Mxico.

Posted by: glenglish | May 2, 2010 11:57 PM | Report abuse

If the goal is to attack a military recruitment center why would the person do so on a Saturday night? Unless the recruitment center is open at those hours, it doesn't make much sense.

The Viacom theory tends to make more sense (e.g. retaliation for the South Park episode featuring a depiction of Mohamed). Even in that case, it would seem to make more sense to do so at a different time of day.

Even there it seems premature to venture too many guesses as to the motive. The evidence is too preliminary. Fortunately, professionals are on the case (e.g. people who will follow the evidence where it leads, rather than letting one favored theory obscure the search for more hard evidence).

Posted by: JPRS | May 3, 2010 12:38 AM | Report abuse

If the target was the recruiting office that fact wouldn't rule out foreign involvement. Nor would the work of amateurs rule out Al Qaeda involvement. Would the former CIA official be surprised to learn that Al Qaeda's capabilities have been degraded? I wouldn't. We've been kicking their butts for years. And they've been known to deploy amateurs. That said, it could well be the work of domestic terrorists with no direction or inspiration from afar.

Posted by: Candidus | May 3, 2010 12:40 AM | Report abuse

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