The hunt is on for the person or group behind Saturday's failed car bombing in New York City's Times Square. Local and federal officials have traced the stolen license plates on the green 1993 Nissan Pathfinder to Connecticut and identified the car's owner (the owner is not considered a suspect). While forensic specialists look for clues, several theories are circulating in the mainstream — and not-so-mainstream — media about who's behind this "very amateur" attempt to bomb Times Square:
1. The Pakistan Taliban
A Taliban group in Pakistan, the Tehrik-e-Taliban, claimed responsibility Sunday for a "jaw-breaking blow to Satan's USA." There's ample reason to doubt their claim, though: The short video the group released doesn't mention the bomb's failure, or even New York, and the Pakistani Taliban has a history of implausibly claiming credit for attacks and other events they had nothing to do with.
2. 'South Park'-hating extremists
The SUV was parked not too far from the offices of Viacom, parent of the Comedy Central network, which broadcasts "South Park." The show's creators have been threatened by the Islamic group "Revolution Muslim" for their irreverent portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed in a recent episode, and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), among others, is suggesting a link between the failed attack and "the whole issue with 'South Park.'"
3. "Homegrown" Islamic terrorists
Several terrorism experts noted the eerie similarity between the attempted attack and the failed bombing outside the London nightclub Tiger Tiger in 2007. That case involved "homegrown" Islamic radicals who'd studied and made contact with al Qaeda in Iraq leaders. The similarity of the dud bombs suggests "Islamic extremism can no longer be stopped at the [U.S.] borders," says Richard Fernandez in Pajamas Media. "It’s here." If so, says Steve Hynd in Newshoggers, our terrorist is apparently "some rank amateur."
4. The government, as part of an anti-Tea Party conspiracy
"We have been warning for weeks about an imminent 'false flag' domestic terror attack," says Alex Jones' Prison Planet, "and this appears to have been such an attempt." For Jones & Co., the failed bombing is a murky conspiracy by "the feds" to demonize "Tea Partiers, Constitutionalists, gun owners," and other "patriots." Other emerging conspiracy theories suggest that the Israelis are trying frame Iran and that right-wing extremists are attempting to implicate Al Qaeda.
5. A balding white man
This figure, who may or may not be tied to the above theories, was captured on surveillance video walking away from the scene, "furtively" looking over his shoulder and changing shirts. He hasn't yet been identified, but "somebody will be picked up pretty soon," wagers Donklephant's Justin Gardner.
Update: Police have captured a suspect, Faisal Shahzad.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How Israel's hawks intimidated and silenced the last remnants of the anti-war left
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- Why China thinks it could defeat the U.S. in battle
- The big policy question libertarians can't answer
- Why your employer should clean your house and do your laundry
- The real lesson of Rick Perry's mug shot
- What you need to know before you support the police in Ferguson
- How the West produces jihadi tourists
- Welcome to the age of ambivalent feminism
Subscribe to the Week