The FBI has arrested a 21-year-old Bangladeshi national, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, for trying to remotely detonate a bomb outside the Federal Reserve in New York City. It turned out that the 1,000 pounds of "explosives" he'd allegedly packed into a van parked outside the building were fake, and that the person who'd supplied them was actually an FBI agent. Prosecutors say the suspect is an al Qaeda sympathizer who came to the U.S. in January on a student visa, hoping to "destroy America." While trying to recruit people from a terrorist cell, he apparently wound up contacting an FBI informer who introduced him to the undercover FBI agent/"explosives" supplier. Law enforcement agents say Nafis considered several attack plans, including an attempt on President Obama's life, before settling on the Fed as his target. What does the foiling of an alleged wannabe bomber say about the U.S. war against terrorists? Here, four theories:
1. The feds are winning, at least for now
"Once again, law enforcement authorities were way ahead of the jihadi, and the public was never in danger," says John Hinderaker at Power Line. Score another one for the good guys. Fortunately, this is getting to be a "familiar scenario" — a "would-be terrorist" tries to recruit help for an attack, and winds up in the FBI's net. "Still, one wonders whether it is only a matter of time before a terrorist, or small group of terrorists, comes up with a truck full of fertilizer and a real detonator."
2. The FBI is wasting resources entrapping losers
"I really have to wonder about the seriousness of our anti-terror efforts," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway, when we're going to such lengths "to entrap one guy who may or may not have actually done anything if he hadn't happened to run into an FBI sting operation." It happens time and again — remember the guy who accepted the faux explosive vest on Capitol Hill in February, and the 2010 Portland Christmas-tree lighting "plot," among others. "If there really are terrorist cells operating the United States — and that is a big if" — shouldn't the FBI be dogging them instead of these hapless wannabes?
3. What's shocking is that this keeps working
Inevitably, this will "raise more questions about the degree to which law enforcement agents are actually the ones concocting these plots by Muslim immigrants who did not, actually, have any connection to al Qaeda," says Joshua Keating at Foreign Policy. Nafis "seems to have been a more active participant than some of his predecessors," although it's equally apparent that he was "nudged along" by the agent posing as his al Qaeda facilitator. Whatever one thinks of the tactic, it's "pretty amazing" that these idiots keep falling for the same kind of sting.
4. It's encouraging that he couldn't find al Qaeda cells to help him
This "smacks a bit of terrorism kabuki," it's true, says Steve Hynd at The Agonist. Nevertheless, this guy did travel a long way hoping to find some fellow admirers of Osama bin Laden. He consulted al Qaeda websites, and reached out in search of al Qaeda sympathizers, yet "all he could get to help him were FBI agents. Doesn't that mean something good?"