Panic! We got our man
Oct 29th 2010, 2:01 by W.W. | IOWA CITY
SO, the FBI tricked some guy into thinking he was helping al-Qaeda plan an attack on Washington, DC’s subway system. The AP reports:
A Pakistani-born suburban father was trying to enlist in a terrorist organization in January and was eager to become a martyr when he unknowingly walked into an FBI sting and began helping plan a purported attack on the Washington subway system, according to court documents.
What followed was an elaborate ruse in which Farooque Ahmed was given intelligence-gathering duties and coded information in a Quran by two individuals posing as al-Qaida operatives as part of the supposed plot to kill commuters on the nation’s second-busiest subway system.
So the probability of an attack just went down, and we can all rest a little easier, right? Wrong! The fact that the FBI was able to bamboozle this fellow into participating in a non-existent scheme has led Metro transit cops to seriously consider riffling through commuters’ stuff.
The day after federal investigators unveiled an unsuccessful terrorist plot against the D.C. Metro system, transit police are considering implementing one of the most controversial security measures available to them.
Metro police now believe they may have to resort to random bag searches, after learning of the FBI’s Wednesday arrest of Farooque Ahmed, 34, of Ashburn, Va., for helping to plan an attack on the D.C. subways.
How does this make sense? The feds didn’t unveil an unsuccessful terrorist plot. They unveiled a man’s willingness to join a fabricated plot. But let us suppose that Mr Ahmed had signed on to an honest-to-goodness mass-murder conspiracy, and that this intrigue is now exposed and its principals rounded up. The chances of an attack are now higher or lower? There is now more or less reason for police to nose through the personal belongings of law-abiding citizens? I say: lower, less. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs seems to suggest as much. “This is another important example of work by the FBI by all levels of our law enforcement and by our national security team to keep this country safe,” Mr Gibbs said at a press briefing. If it’s working, it’s working!
The best I can do on behalf of the DC transit police goes something like this:
Our earlier decision not to conduct random bag searches was based on the assumption that no one was willing to put a life-threatening device in his or her bags. The case of Mr Ahmed has revealed a vital piece of new information: Mr Ahmed was willing to put a life-threatening device in his bag. We infer that if Mr Ahmed was willing, others might be willing as well, and that the probability of future bag-related terror is greater than we had estimated. Therefore, we propose to reduce the chances of such an attack by ransacking innocent commuters’ satchels.
Naturally, I remain unmoved by my attempt at rational reconstruction. Perhaps a commenter more sympathetic to police harassment can do better. Al-Qaeda aspirants are like the Hydra; when one is captured, two take his place? Help me out here.
(Photo credit: AFP)