Catching the Times Square Bomber Was Luck

We need real solutions

During a television interview, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was asked how a bomb-laden car could be driven into Times Square, and how to prevent such a recurrence. He answered, correctly, that, since we live in a free society, such terrorists attacks can never be fully prevented.[SIGNUP]

The corollary to that answer is obvious — planned attacks can be thwarted by good intelligence, competent personnel, and, perhaps most important, common sense. But instead, we have come to rely on luck and the bumbling incompetence of terrorists — not exactly a recipe for success.

The law of averages dictates that Lady Luck’s repeated generosity to America must soon come to an end.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a foreign concept to those charged with protecting us — bureaucrats, agents, and most of all, elected officials.

* * *

Several things come to mind after watching the Times Square interview.

First, what a colossally stupid question to ask Kelly. Of course you can’t stop someone from driving into Times Square.  And if you shut down the Square to vehicular traffic, terrorists can either strap a bomb to their chest (or, as is their preferred method, to a child), or they can drive somewhere else.

So the real question is, what we are doing to prevent these attacks?

Sure, vigilant citizens and luck are nice, but neither can be counted on to save us. The answer, as always, comes down to the competence of our intelligence agencies. And they have been dropping the ball lately.

This is by no means an indictment of the dedicated personnel working day and night to protect us. Overall, they do a good job. But they are only as good as the tools and directives they are given.

How is it possible, nine years after the September 11 attacks — and mere months after the Christmas Bomber almost brought down a jumbo jet — that the ethnic-Pakistani arrested in the Times Square bombing attempt was able to:

A)  Buy a one-way ticket to the Middle East

B)  Buy that ticket IN CASH

C)  And actually board the plane, while being on the NO-FLY LIST!

We obviously haven’t learned much in the last five months. The Christmas Bomber was on a terror watch list, yet was able to fly into U.S. airspace.

How many Americans must needlessly die before we actually do what we must?

A lot.

-Our intelligence agencies still don’t share critical information, with too many top-level officials engaged in turf and funding wars, fighting for headlines rather than concentrating on the threat of our cities being incinerated.

-We still haven’t sealed the borders, which allow unfettered access into America.  So while illegal immigration remains a grave problem, it pales beside the threat of a terrorist strolling across the border with a nuclear or biological weapon in a suitcase.

Yet nothing is done.

-We have cell phones that can do unthinkably amazing things, like scanning bar codes on products and telling consumers where that item can be purchased for the cheapest price, but we don’t even have a functioning database which accurately tells us who shouldn’t be flying.

-We still ignore flashing red flags about people paying for one-way tickets — in cash — to terrorist-hotbeds where anti-Americanism runs high. Especially, as in this case, when it was mere hours after a terrorist incident.

-We don’t actively profile at airports because, God forbid, some olive-complexioned man might be offended. Pay no attention to the fact that it’s not blond-haired, blue-eyed Scandinavians attempting to blow up planes, and that these terrorists actually fit a profile.

It seems much easier to bow at the altar of political correctness — and American lives be damned.

* * *

We got lucky in foiling the attack on Fort Dix.  We got lucky because the Christmas Bomber was inept. And now we got lucky when another incompetent wasn’t able to set off his car bomb in Times Square.

Truth is, we were really lucky to have captured him at all.

But what happens when we’re not lucky?

This isn’t a hypothetical question.

Ask the families of the Fort Hood shooting victims, a massacre where we ignored the warning signs of an Army Major communicating with an imam with known terrorist sympathies.

Ask the families of the 3,000 who died on 9/11, despite numerous warning signs that were ignored, such as an FBI agent whose suspicions about Muslims taking flight lessons — who weren’t interested in learning how to land a plane — were rebuffed.

What will it take to become a competent, secure nation?

A President and Congress that stops playing games and demands accountability in how our intelligence agencies work together and share information.

An intelligence apparatus that is not merely permitted, but actively encouraged to engage in meaningful profiling.

A border that is sealed immediately.

And, most important, that the American people stand up to the small but vocal minority who prefer appeasing terrorists rather than fighting them.

Anything less could result in thousands, perhaps millions of American lives being snuffed out in an instant. It’s not enough to get tough for a moment or two after an attack. We need the same national resolve, day in and day out, that we possessed for a fleeting moment after the 9/11 horror.

Anything less dooms us to failure.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”Freind also serves as a weekly guest commentator on the Philadelphia-area talk radio show, Political Talk (WCHE 1520), and makes numerous other television and radio appearances.  He can be reached at