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Examining Target New York

Initial Analysis Of The Times Square Bombing Attempt

By Steve Schippert | May 4, 2010

Following the attempted car bombing outside the Viacom building at Times Square in New York City this past Saturday, some of the immediate speculation has turned to information. Much of the rest remains informed speculation but speculation nonetheless. With over 48 hours now past since the initial incident, an analysis of knowns and unknowns is warranted. It is important that the American public access and understand this information, particularly those who live and work in the New York City metro area, for 'home' remains Target New York.

Within the context of "Target New York," three essential pieces of information must be fleshed out fully to completely understand this event and to better predict - and therefor prevent - future terrorist attempts at attack on American civilians. The essential pieces of information are what, who and why - and in that order. The answers to one aspect often lends clues to unknown answers to the others.

What: The Pathfinder Car Bomb

truck-frontangleview.jpgThe bomb itself was simple and crude, made from readily available materials. This and the manner of its construction and design - particularly the triggering mechanism - suggests a first-time bomb maker at work is a high probability. All materials readily available, simple triggering mechanism that failed to detonate or ignite the flammable materials and other details indicate that this could well be the product of a bomb maker in his first attempt.

It would at first appear likely that the bomb maker had very little hands-on training if any, with little indication any training would be to the level expected of an al-Qaeda or Taliban explosives training camp in Pakistan or elsewhere. It would therefor also be reasonable then to suspect that the bomb maker was likely following instructions - either written in a book or manual or acquired via the Internet in either a web posting or, perhaps less likely due to security risks, via e-mail exchanges. As we will soon see, considering other information now known, this may all be very wrong assumptions to make. This nevertheless begins to give us clues to the question of who. First, back to the what.

The contents of the vehicle, a Nissan Pathfinder SUV, included two plastic five-gallon containers of gasoline, three metal propane tanks (the type commonly used for outdoor grills), dry fertilizer in a lock metal gun cabinet described as containing "eight bags (over 100 pounds) of an unknown, fertilizer-like substance and an inverted pot with a "bird's nest" of wires. There were two analog alarm clocks wired to arrangements of M-88 firecrackers. The bomber expected the M-88 firecrackers to go off and puncture the gasoline and propane tanks to spark the explosion. This clearly did not happen. Some of the M-88's ignited, as heard by nearby pedestrians and vendors, but failed to penetrate either the plastic gasoline containers or the propane tanks.

The fertilizer still in bags and clearly expected to explode or add to the impact is another sign of a bomb maker of low skill and knowledge perhaps following poor or unclear instructions. In order for an ammonium nitrate fertilizer to be transformed into an explosive, it must be combined with diesel fuel and stirred into a slurry. The fertilizer was reportedly not an ammonium nitrate based type to begin with, slurry or none.

It should be noted here that the crude, technically lacking bomb design itself should be no source of reassurance that the threat to New York City, its citizens, its tourists and its workers is minimal. It was a mistake for authorities and experts to publicly describe it as "amateurish." Americans taking in their information from news reports who see this written and hear it spoken will instinctively conclude that the threat is significantly less than feared. This is a mistake, because upwards of 80% of a successful attack comes from the motivation and desire of the attacker. This is far harder for terrorists to cultivate among recruits than skill levels and tactics. And the motivation and desire to kill innocents on New York City streets was clearly demonstrated Saturday.

The vehicle used was purchased for cash via a Craigslist.com seller's post. The owner reportedly "sold the vehicle for $1,300 to someone who looked 'Middle Eastern' or 'Hispanic.' The buyer reportedly paid in $100 bills." The vehicle was then fitted with license plates stolen off of a Ford pick-up at a Stratford, Connecticut, junk yard. The bomb was loaded and assembled and then driven into New York City late on the Saturday afternoon of May 1, 2010.

Who: The Bomb Cell and Taliban Claims

All of the indications of a poorly trained bomb maker remain. However, the "Middle Eastern" buyer of the 1993 Pathfinder as described by the seller is believed to be a naturalized American citizen of Pakistani origin "who was in Pakistan for several months and returned to the United States recently," according to unnamed officials speaking to FOX News. Authorities believe him to be part of a cell of at least three individuals in the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut).

Whatever the individual's training and skill level, if one can presume that he may have either built the bomb or passed on directions, his presence in Pakistan "for months" recently can reasonably be presumed to lend some immediate credence to Taliban claims of responsibility for the attack.

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.

The pre-recorded nature and the April 30 date of the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) channel creation are another strong indicator that the Taliban had prior knowledge of the attempted bombing and potentially central involvement as claimed. The Pakistani Taliban's top bomb maker said that the attack was "revenge for the great & valuable martyred leaders of mujahideen," indicating that he presumed the attack would be successful to some degree, likely at least expecting the media spectacle of a big boom in Manhattan if not casualties.

If the Pakistani-American purchaser of the Nissan Pathfinder did not indeed meet with, conspire with and take training from the Pakistani Taliban while in Pakistan for months, Mehsud's remarks and timing will prove to be for him one of the most unlikely and unpleasant coincidences of the War on Terror. It is reasonable to conclude that the purchaser of the Nissan Pathfinder used in the bombing was not in Pakistan taking in a series of cricket matches for several months, only to return and find a newly purchased truck stolen and used in a bombing. His disappearance since the incident bears this out.

It is an error to suggest, as I have recently, that the Taliban have never made false claims of credit for attacks they had no part in. It is extremely rare, yes. But they have made at least two false claims responsibility in the past, it should be noted. As pointed out by Marc Sageman to the Wall Street Journal, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the massive northeast blackout of 2003 and also for a mass shooting in Binghamton, New York, last year. But two incidences over a several years does not make a pattern. Considering the other information beginning to take shape in the open-source, the Taliban claims look more credible with each passing day.

Why: What Stirs The Plot?

The specific answer(s) to why the bombing was attempted in the first place is the trickiest - yet simplest - question to answer. What drove these men to attempt a bombing now? Why was the bomb parked at the entrance to the Viacom building? Why wasn't it somewhere else? Why was a naturalized American citizen of Pakistani decent motivated to attack his supposedly adopted country? Each of these questions at their face value require psycho-analysis and intrepid interrogation to answer.

Yet, we can never lose sight of the most basic reality, which is to say that ideologically-driven militant Islamists embrace terrorism as a means of waging war against a nation it cannot defeat militarily. And America is hated most. Yes, the reasons are myriad and the degrees of the hatreds and their root causes are debated among anthropologists and terrorism experts inside and out. But while the specifics are hammered out, argued and debated exhaustively in academic circles, the debate cannot cause Americans to lose sight of the fact that America is the ultimate target. And New York City is the omnipresent image of America abroad and is thus the preferred target for all its symbolism and concentrated media.

Nothing we do in diplomacy, foreign policy or actions will change this dynamic. For, while the specific gripes from specific Islamist terrorist groups are laid forth with great fanfare and passion, the ultimate goal is a global caliphate and the dominance of Islam (with fundamentalist Islamists at the helm) over all lands. America remains a target today because she stood up, because she stands tall and visible. But shrink, and the target doesn't disappear, it is simply delayed.

The majority of hot conflicts on the globe are at the edges where majority Muslim societies border majority non-Muslim societies. This is no accident or coincidence. The wars - or rather, the Jihad - is undertaken by the most dangerous, most violent and most radical among them. There is no room in the jihad for non-Muslims. Nor, as can be seen plainly within Pakistan itself, is there room for the moderate or secular Muslim.

Conclusion to Initial Analysis

And so it is with Target New York. It is entirely possible, nay likely, that the recent Times Square car bomb was placed at the doorstep of the Viacom building's main northeast entrance because of the South Park controversy. Aired and produced by Viacom's Comedy Central, South Park's creators intended to air a depiction of the prophet Muhammed in an episode. This angered some Muslims as an affront to their beliefs, including the forbidding of any images of Muhammed. The reasonable will protest and air complaints. The violent, the extreme, the Islamist and terrorist will attack, kill, maim and destroy.

And he will use the attack as a propaganda tool to recruit and inspire others to the same. And this is the seed of what some call the "homegrown terrorist" or "homegrown jihad." But how "homegrown" can it be when the views and actions are so divorced from the civil American society? It may well be the execution of jihad from those within, but it can hardly be considered a "homegrown" expression of the civil American society. It is wholly foreign in every regard.

Regardless what term is affixed, one of the aims of the terrorists executing and/or claiming public responsibility for the Times Square bombing attempt is to inspire others within America to take up their cause. As a good friend smartly remarked, "The pursuit of those responsible plays right into the al-Qaeda playbook. A recruiting tool that offends the more gifted into action. Global insurgency works like this. All failures are successes. All successes are recruits."

We have no choice but to pursue. We are at war, a long war. A war of bombs, a war of ideas. The enemy gets a vote and a turn. We must win more than we lose. For all its complexities and the natural fears within Target New York, it's also just that simple.

United States of America

I've Got Your Sovereignty

The Best Part About Think Tank 2.0: Heterogeneousness of Thought

By Michael Tanji | December 31, 2009

My colleague Steve Schippert asked recently: "Wither Soverignty." My then-private reply at the time went something like this:

Steve,

I don't want to up the humidity level on this parade, but:

  1. INTERPOL's resources (aside from administrative) are drawn from member nations' police forces (contrary to the movies, you can't be an 'INTERPOL agent') who are there to facilitate and liaison, not conduct police operations themselves.
  1. While this may be seen as something linked to a path to the ICC, congress has to ratify any such agreement. We can't ratify the law of the sea (not that we should) a treaty we helped put together; we can't pass health care (not that we should) something everyone agrees needs to be addressed to a certain degree.
  1. As an international organization that is essentially diplomatic in spirit, it is not unusual to expect that they would ask for similar rights and privileges as other diplomatic missions. We didn't have to give it to them, but we shouldn't be surprised it came during this administration, where making friends overseas is on the top-ten list.

Does anyone think for a second that an FBI agent supporting the US INTERPOL office is going to act against the best interests of the US? No FBI agent I know would. Is Congress ever going to ratify an ICC treaty? Not if health care is any indication. Finally, what one executive order can give, another can take away (or a secret one can effectively counter).

Mike

Steve's reply at the time:

Mike,

All of that is understood and agreed, but my point is that we have surrendered sovereignty as a matter of policy. We now rely on the fidelity of our FBI (et al) personnel to stand athwart policy and potential untoward actions of empowered international law enforcement, which is a lot to ask of an individual in the face of a bureaucracy.

Any information collected on Americans, no matter what our notional FBI agent supporting INTERPOL thinks or cares, is beyond reach of our own law enforcement and citizens themselves. I find this unacceptable.

Yes, it can be undone. Bush already did that once. But that it must be done is the point. That we must remain energetically vigilant toward our own leadership on such matters without rest is enraging.

Steve

I don't blame anyone who tracked this story for feeling concerned about the Executive Order, but I think outrage is unwarranted. We afford such protection and immunity to a wide range of organizations, including those that probably should have been given the boot long ago, but we need to make sure we know exactly what is at stake here: INTERPOL has nothing that participating nations are not already prepared to give up. So you cannot subpoena INTERPOL? Fine. They didn't collect that information, your own government did. So subpoena (or FOIA) them.

If anything, I find this move to be simply one more item added to this administration's internationalism buffet, and an innocuous one at that. If recent events have demonstrated anything, it's that it doesn't matter what sort of mechanism or organization you set up to share information and cooperate if you're not prepared to actually and completely work as a team, because short of that you are setting yourself up for catastrophe.

An organization that is trying to address bad acts and find bad actors from a transnational perspective is a good thing. The more we can cooperate the better, because trying to go it alone is more complicated, time-consuming, and draining than we can afford. When you are frustrated and tired you get lazy, complacent, and that's not where we need to be given the environment we're in.

I stand with Steve and everyone concerned about national sovereignty, we just need to make sure we're picking the right fight.

United States of America

Wither Sovereignty

Executive Order Amended to Immunize INTERPOL In America - Is The ICC Next?

By Steve Schippert | December 23, 2009

Last Thursday, December 17, 2009, The White House released an Executive Order "Amending Executive Order 12425." It grants INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization) a new level of full diplomatic immunity afforded to foreign embassies and select other "International Organizations" as set forth in the United States International Organizations Immunities Act of 1945.

By removing language from President Reagan's 1983 Executive Order 12425, this international law enforcement body now operates - now operates - on American soil beyond the reach of our own top law enforcement arm, the FBI, and is immune from Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
For Immediate Release December 17, 2009
Executive Order -- Amending Executive Order 12425

EXECUTIVE ORDER
- - - - - - -
AMENDING EXECUTIVE ORDER 12425 DESIGNATING INTERPOL
AS A PUBLIC INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION ENTITLED TO
ENJOY CERTAIN PRIVILEGES, EXEMPTIONS, AND IMMUNITIES

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act (22 U.S.C. 288), and in order to extend the appropriate privileges, exemptions, and immunities to the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), it is hereby ordered that Executive Order 12425 of June 16, 1983, as amended, is further amended by deleting from the first sentence the words "except those provided by Section 2©, Section 3, Section 4, Section 5, and Section 6 of that Act" and the semicolon that immediately precedes them.

BARACK OBAMA

THE WHITE HOUSE,
December 16, 2009.

After initial review and discussions between the writers of this analysis, the context was spelled out plainly.

Through EO 12425, President Reagan extended to INTERPOL recognition as an "International Organization." In short, the privileges and immunities afforded foreign diplomats was extended to INTERPOL. Two sets of important privileges and immunities were withheld: Section 2© and the remaining sections cited (all of which deal with differing taxes).

And then comes December 17, 2009, and President Obama. The exemptions in EO 12425 were removed.

Section 2c of the United States International Organizations Immunities Act is the crucial piece.

Property and assets of international organizations, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall be immune from search, unless such immunity be expressly waived, and from confiscation. The archives of international organizations shall be inviolable. (Emphasis added.)

Inviolable archives means INTERPOL records are beyond US citizens' Freedom of Information Act requests and from American legal or investigative discovery ("unless such immunity be expressly waived.")

Property and assets being immune from search and confiscation means precisely that. Wherever they may be in the United States. This could conceivably include human assets - Americans arrested on our soil by INTERPOL officers.

Context: International Criminal Court

The importance of this last crucial point cannot be understated, because this immunity and protection - and elevation above the US Constitution - afforded INTERPOL is likely a precursor to the White House subjecting the United States under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). INTERPOL provides a significant enforcement function for the ICC, just as our FBI provides a significant function for our Department of Justice.

We direct the American public to paragraph 28 of the ICC's Proposed Programme Budget for 2010 (PDF).

29. Additionally, the Court will continue to seek the cooperation of States not party to the Rome Statute and to develop its relationships with regional organizations such as the Organization of American States (OAS), the Arab League (AL), the African Union (AU), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), ASEAN and CARICOM. We will also continue to engage with subregional and thematic organizations, such as SADC and ECOWAS, and the Commonwealth Secretariat and the OIF. This will be done through high level visits, briefings and, as appropriate, relationship agreements. Work will also be carried out with sectoral organizations such as IDLO and INTERPOL, to increase efficiency.

The United States is not a party to the Rome Statute - the UN treaty that established the International Criminal Court. (See: Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court)

President George W. Bush rejected subjecting the United States to the jurisdiction of the ICC and removed the United States as a signatory. President Bill Clinton had previously signed the Rome Statute during his presidency. Two critical matters are at play. One is an overall matter of sovereignty and the concept of the primacy of American law above those of the rest of the world. But more recently a more over-riding concern principally has been the potential - if not likely - specter of subjecting our Armed Forces to a hostile international body seeking war crimes prosecutions during the execution of an unpopular war.

President Bush in fact went so far as to gain agreement from nations that they would expressly not detain or hand over to the ICC members of the United States armed forces. The fear of a symbolic ICC circus trial as a form of international political protest to American military actions in Iraq and elsewhere was real and palpable.

President Obama's words have been carefully chosen when directly regarding the ICC. While President Bush outright rejected subjugating American armed forces to any international court as a matter of policy, President Obama said in his 2008 presidential campaign that it is merely "premature to commit" to signing America on.

However, in a Foreign Policy in Focus round-table in 2008, the host group cited his former foreign policy advisor, Samantha Power. She essentially laid down what can be viewed as now-President Obama's roadmap to America rejoining the ICC. His principal objections are not explained as those of sovereignty, but rather of image and perception.

Obama's former foreign policy advisor, Samantha Power, said in an early March (2008) interview with The Irish Times that many things need to happen before Obama could think about signing the Rome Treaty.

"Until we've closed Guantánamo, gotten out of Iraq responsibly, renounced torture and rendition, shown a different face for America, American membership of the ICC is going to make countries around the world think the ICC is a tool of American hegemony.

The detention center at Guantánamo Bay is nearing its closure and an alternate continental American site for terrorist detention has been selected in Illinois. The time line for Iraq withdrawal has been set. And President Obama has given an abundance of international speeches intended to "show a different face for America." He has in fact been roundly criticized domestically for the routinely apologetic and critical nature of these speeches.

President Obama has not rejected the concept of ICC jurisdiction over US citizens and service members. He has avoided any direct reference to this while offering praise for the ICC for conducting its trials so far "in America's interests." The door thus remains wide open to the skeptical observer.

CONCLUSIONS

In light of what we know and can observe, it is our logical conclusion that President Obama's Executive Order amending President Ronald Reagans' 1983 EO 12425 and placing INTERPOL above the United States Constitution and beyond the legal reach of our own top law enforcement is a precursor to more damaging moves.

The pre-requisite conditions regarding the Iraq withdrawal and the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention facility closure will continue their course. meanwhile, the next move from President Obama is likely an attempt to dissolve the agreements made between President Bush and other states preventing them from turning over American military forces to the ICC (via INTERPOL) for war crimes or any other prosecutions.

When the paths on the road map converge - Iraq withdrawal, Guantánamo closure, perceived American image improved internationally, and an empowered INTERPOL in the United States - it is probable that President Barack Obama will once again make America a signatory to the International Criminal Court. It will be a move that surrenders American sovereignty to an international body whose INTERPOL enforcement arm has already been elevated above the Constitution and American domestic law enforcement.

For an added and disturbing wrinkle, INTERPOL's central operations office in the United States is within our own Justice Department offices. They are American law enforcement officers working under the aegis of INTERPOL within our own Justice Department. That they now operate with full diplomatic immunity and with "inviolable archives" from within our own buildings should send red flags soaring into the clouds.

This is the disturbing context for President Obama's quiet release of an amended Executive Order 12425. American sovereignty hangs in the balance if these actions are not prevented through public outcry and political pressure. Some Americans are paying attention, as can be seen from some of the earliest recognitions of this troubling development here, here and here. But the discussion must extend well beyond the Internet and social media.

Ultimately, a detailed verbal explanation is due the American public from the President of the United States detailing why an international law enforcement arm assisting a court we are not a signatory to has been elevated above our Constitution upon our soil.

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