Wednesday, July 21, 2010


This may be deeply disappointing to some people, but it appears that the Christmas bomb in Times Square was a dud not just because we "got lucky," but (at least in part) because we passed some reasonable laws that worked:

Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad used inferior explosives to avoid detection, New York's police commissioner said Tuesday, helping to explain why an international bomb plot ended up a dud.

Commissioner Ray Kelly, speaking to the Center for National Policy, a Washington think tank, discussed his department's concerns about the changing threats of terrorism....

"He tried to lessen the explosive nature of the fertilizer that was used because he thought he would get a higher profile as he went to buy it," Mr. Kelly told reporters, adding that Mr. Shahzad "sort of dumbed that down."

Mr. Shahzad also used M-88 fireworks that were much weaker than other alternatives, Mr. Kelly said.

... Mr. Shahzad was apparently so worried about [legal] tripwires that he deliberately built a weaker, less effective bomb....

What?! You mean we didn't have to torture anyone, detain anyone indefinitely without due process, invade and occupy any countries, or launch drone attacks on any weddings?

Regulations on explosives were tightened in 2002, though fertilizer regulations weren't enhanced until 2008 -- a bill introduced by Democrats Bennie Thompson in the House and Mark Pryor in the Senate, with a bipartisan range of sponsors, passed early that year. That was twelve years after fertilizer was used in the Oklahoma City bombing -- I'm not sure the exact reasons for the delay, but I do see that the American Farm Bureau did some lobbying on the bill, and press reports complained that it was weakened. Also some regulations implementing the new law still haven't been implemented. But apparently this, and maybe some state laws, turned out to be enough to get Faisal Shahzad to dial down his bomb-making plans.

It's been reported that a reconstructed version of the bomb would have killed more people than the OKC bomb, but that would have been a bomb built the way Shahzad originally intended to build it, not the way he actually did build it.

I realize it's infinitely more satisfying, at least to some people, to rattle more sabers, to hang a few more guys from the ceiling by handcuffed wrists, to deprive terrorist suspects of Miranda rights and citizenship, or to declare all mosques and Islamic cultural centers un-American and unwelcome. So I'm sorry to have to break it to people who enjoy those courses of action that what actually may have worked in this case was passing reasonable, constitutional, non-controversial, human-rights-respecting anti-terrorism laws.

Try not to take it too hard.

(Via Newser.)

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