This is a rush transcript from "Journal Edotiral Report," April 27, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, FOX HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report".
New details emerge about the Boston bombing suspects, including possible plans to hit New York's Time Square. We'll look at how we can keep out cities safe from the threat of homegrown terror.
Plus, at least two federal agencies failed to heed warnings about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Have our anti-terror defenses failed in the years since 9/11?
And the unraveling of Obamacare continues. A chief architect calls it a train wreck, and announces his retirement amid reports that his Congressional colleagues may be looking to exempt themselves.
Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report". I'm Paul Gigot.
As we continue to learn more about the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, including their plans to attack New York City's Times Square, a clearer picture is emerging of the older brother and apparent ringleader, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, as a young man who had become increasingly radicalized while living in the U.S., something my guest warned years ago was the new face of terrorism in America.
Mitchell Silber is the former director of intelligence analysis for the New York City Police Department where he oversaw all terror investigations. He's the author of the 2007 NYPD report, "Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat."
Mr. Silber, welcome to the program.
MITCHELL SILBER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF INTELLIGENCE ANALYSIS, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT: Thank you.
GIGOT: So the U.S. officials are now describing Tamerlan Tsarnaev as having undergone a self-radicalization. What does that mean to you?
SILBER: I think when they refer to self-radicalization, they mean he wasn't radicalized by some outside group. There wasn't some type of ideologue who was physically in Boston leading him along. It's an interesting concept because what we have seen is that no longer do you need to have a person in place or a group to radicalize somebody, but rather it can all be through the Internet and what we called at NYPD a virtual internet sanctuary.
GIGOT: Your report mentions that many of these people that this happens to are unremarkable. They're leading unremarkable, normal lives.
You wouldn't think of them as potential terrorists. Yet, something happens. There's a process they go through. What happens along that process?
SILBER: Well, at some point, they decide to reevaluate their life and their world view and they may be having some personal crisis, maybe a death in the family, something that makes them reassess which direction they're going. They may not have a strong identity of who they are. Are they Chechen or are they American? Are they Chechen-America? And they investigate what did their heritage means, whether it's their ethnic heritage, religious heritage. And as they go down that road, they begin to learn more about Islam. And unfortunately, in the cases that end up turning to violent extremism, they adopt an extremist interpretation of the religion.
GIGOT: Do they need somebody, a mentor somewhere, or is there somebody they might deal with on the internet? Because we have seen cases where this has happened, for example, they were dealing with Anwar al-Awlaki, the former -- the now dead imam who was working out of Yemen.
SILBER: Absolutely. And that's the concept of having an ideologue who is online, who may not be their physically with you. We saw that very much in the Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber from 2010.
SILBER: And we're still learning more about the Tsarnaev brothers. I wouldn't be surprised if, at some point, when the FBI is done looking at their their computers, they find links to Anwar al-Awlaki web sites. But we do know from his YouTube page where he was following another extremist imam, a fellow named Faiz Mohammed, someone who is in favor of violence against non-believers, and has said that openly on his website, an Australian cleric who is out of Lebanon, but he speaks in English. I think that's the important part.
GIGOT: Well, these people are, it sounds, very hard to detect, in part, because they are operating by themselves, because they evolve over time. So what do you do at the NYPD to try to make sure you can detect these people before they actually become violent?
SILBER: You're right, Paul. The signals are very faint to detect radicalization. It's not something that happens in a loud way. So essentially, NYPD tried to be creative and create tripwires in a variety of different places, travel overseas for a significant period of time.
GIGOT: That was one of those things --
SILBER: Absolutely. You went to a zone of conflict, that was something that required some further scrutiny, maybe send an officer to come and check in and find out what that trip was about. We wanted to better understand the neighborhoods, the human geography of New York City to try and figure out, are there certain incubators where radicalization is likely to happen. In the Madrid bombing case of 2004, the guy is radicalized in a barber shop. In the London, 7-7 bombers case, they radicalized in a book store. So public places that the NYPD could go to, and most importantly online.
GIGOT: But here's the thing that puzzles me about this case. You had a couple of those tripwires here, an overseas trip, you had an alert by the Russians. And then, once he returned from overseas, we know he had postings that sympathized with jihad. Why would those tripwires not have been discovered here in this case?
SILBER: It's the question that I'm asking myself. It's the question we dealt with every day at the NYPD. I think what we didn't have was a connection of the trip overseas, the lead by the Russians, and then when Tsarnaev returned, when the older brother returned, how come someone wasn't monitoring his social media to see the change. Because change is really the indicator that someone is moving in a new direction. And if you had seen those postings on his YouTube page, you would see that he had gone in a different direction since his return.
GIGOT: So do you think he should have been under some kind of wiretap or, even short of that, maybe surveillance by a cyber unit within the Boston P.D. or the FBI?
SILBER: Yes. I think, for his Youtube pages, I looked at a couple of days ago, it was not something that was locked. And it was open for anyone to look at. So frankly, if it's an open web site, anyone could have looked at it. That seems to be one of those basic steps that should have been done, is monitoring of the cyber.
It's interesting that monitoring cyber on the counterterrorism side has also made this transition on the corporate side day-to-day. We're seeing corporate clients also want to go monitor social media to detect different types of threats.
GIGOT: Not terrorist?
SILBER: Not terrorists.
SILBER: Hostile takeovers maybe, proxy fights.
GIGOT: OK. There has been some controversy with what the NYPD did, the survey on some criticism on the Associated Press and others saying, you're intruding on ethnic communities or Muslim communities for their faith. How do you respond to that kind of criticism?
SILBER: I think it was really unfortunate because the A.P.'s articles were very misinformed. They actually took different programs and conflated them and made them seem sinister.
All of the programs that NYPD was involved in fit into a rigid legal structure called the Handchew Agreement. It was almost mirror image of the federal guideline that the FBI has to deal with as well, the attorney general guidelines. So in order to use an informant or an undercover, one had to meet a certain legal predicate. And if you didn't meet that legal predicate, you couldn't open the investigation. If you had you had an ongoing investigation and you no longer were meeting that legal predicate, it was my job to advise at the highest levels you've got to shut that investigation down. So there was oversight internally on this process.
GIGOT: And there has been no change in the New York P.D. behavior in the wake of any criticism from the courts.
Thank you, Mr. Silber.
SILBER: No, not at all. Thank you.