The White House is touting law enforcement efforts in the detention of Faisal Shahzad, the purported Times Square bomber, but critics say catching Shahzad was luck. And these same critics say the Obama administration has done little, if anything, to advance their work on terrorist investigations and prosecutions since the Christmas day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was detained in Detroit after trying to set off a home-made bomb in an airplane restroom.
The arrest of Shahzad late Monday night at JFK airport is being viewed as a success by the Obama administration, as well as the New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“The time elapsed from what happened, the attempt in Times Square, to having this terrorist in custody was done over an extraordinarily rapid time period,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters at the White House. “I think in many ways we want to celebrate the success, rightly so, of what law enforcement was able to do.”
But critics say the Obama White House and lack of leadership is what led to the attempted bombing in the first place, just like in December. “Washington failed us again in exactly the same way,” James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation told Fox News. “We had a known enemy, using a known tactic and a known network to attacks and Washington knew nothing about it until after the fact.”
Shahzad was taken off an airplane bound for Dubai on Monday evening, 53 hours after a car was found abandoned in New York City’s Times Square. Shahzad, who was questioned in February when he returned to the U.S. from Pakistan, was not on federal authorities’ radar before the attack, but he was added to the “no fly list” in the hours before he boarded an Emirates Airline plane. Gibbs says new rules announced Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security require the “no-fly list” be checked at two-hour intervals if airlines have been notified that somebody has been added to the list. Previously, the “no-fly list” was checked 24 hours in advance of a flight. Until Monday, Shahzad was not on the list. The Christmas Day bomber Abdulmutallab was never listed on the “no-fly” list, despite concerns about him reported to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria by his own father. While the administration did not want to make any links between the two cases, the White House seemed pleased there were lessons learned between the two events.
“The President uses any opportunity to evaluate whether what we’re doing is as effective as it can be and we’ll change whatever needs to be changed,” Gibbs said.
But even those close to the investigation admit while research may have played a part in the detention of Shahzad, there were other factors at play.
“We'll take luck any time. You know we were lucky, and I think it was good police work. it was a combination of the both,” Commissioner Kelly said at a hearing in Washington.
Gibbs says the President will get briefings on the foiled attack, but he won’t be ordering a review as he did in December of last year after what Obama called a “systemic failure” to place Abdulmutallab on a terrorist watch list, allowing him to travel internationally.