In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve moved fully into a world of Terrorism 2.0.
England saw it with the 2005 London subway bombing executed not by shadowy foreigners but British citizens. It has become a fact of life here, too, that terrorism attacks increasingly are being planned and carried out by Americans who might be the dad next door.
Of course, long before we had Faisal Shahzad, the suspect arrested in the recent failed Times Square bombing, we had Timothy McVeigh, so this trend isn’t entirely new.
But the last few years have seen more Americans taking up arms against their country. Authorities say that includes Shahzad, who married an American, became a citizen, earned a U.S. college degree and was raising his kids in Connecticut.
The war on terror started as a battle against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan but has morphed into a response to smaller pockets of terrorists, some closer to lone wolves and some, like accused Fort Hood assassin Nidal Malik Hasan, born and raised in America.
As Terrorism 2.0 unfolds, the responsibility for the rest of us to remain vigilant only increases. We need not become hysterical vigilantes, but unusual actions by a neighbor or a colleague — think long, unexplained absences or one-way plane tickets bought with cash — are worth reporting.
The Shahzad case also emphasizes whether and when a U.S. citizen striking at his country deserves to hear his Miranda rights. The Constitution obviously doesn’t limit such rights to certain Americans.
The authorities investigating Shahzad showed they can read a suspect his rights and get valuable intelligence. Investigators used a public safety exception to immediately question him and determine whether he had information about other imminent threats.
Investigators learned of his alleged trips to and weapons training in Pakistan, among other details. Once satisfied, they read him his rights.
Republicans like John McCain have criticized the Obama administration on the Miranda question, but it’s a hollow argument. Top intelligence directors were consulted before Shahzad heard his Miranda warning. They believed investigators had extracted important information and gave the go-ahead.
McCain is far from the only public official who spoke before thinking in the wake of the smoking SUV in Times Square. Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano was talking about a “one-off,” amateur threat before law enforcement had even nailed down Shahzad as a suspect.
Likewise, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s inexplicable assessment that this could have been the act of a “mentally deranged person” or someone with an agenda who “doesn’t like the health care bill” said far more about him than his apparent tea party targets.
In the future, public officials should keep in mind the potential effect of their wild speculation about ongoing investigations. Better bland than blather.
Unfortunately, they are likely to have more chances to get it right in the future.