Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Jumping to conclusions

I realize that authorities have a concern about making sure that people don't get panicked when there is a news of a terrorist attack, even one that we were so fortunate that it didn't work. But our leaders should also be super careful about not going on TV and making assumptions that they can't possibly know in the early stages of the investigation.

Here is what Mayor Bloomberg said on CBS
Bloomberg later told CBS Evening News Anchor Katie Couric that the suspect behind the bombing attempt could be a domestic terrorist angry at the government who acted alone.

"If I had to guess 25 cents, this would be exactly that. Homegrown, or maybe a mentally deranged person, or somebody with a political agenda that doesn't like the health care bill or something. It could be anything," he said.

"There is no evidence here of a conspiracy, there is no evidence that it's tied into anything else. It looks like an amateurish job done by at least one person," he told Couric.
How would Bloomberg know that there was no conspiracy?

And why throw out there the possibility that it was a mentally deranged person or give as an example that it might have been someone who "didn't like the health care bill or something?" Why throw out there such musings in the first place? And how convenient that the example he chose was a conservative who didn't like Obama's agenda.

And then there is Janet Napolitano who went on the Sunday shows to allay anxieties.
Janet Napolitano, the US Secretary of Homeland Security, said today that the unexploded car bomb found in Times Square in New York late yesterday appeared to be an "amateurish" terrorism attempt.

Ms Napolitano said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Homeland Security and the City of New York were examining security video from the area around the vehicle, a Nissan SUV, which was towed early on Sunday to a forensic lab in Queens after a robotic arm was used to break the windows and remove the most dangerous materials.

There was no information to suggest that there are any other terrorism targets linked to the incident and the evidence so far suggested that this was a "one-off attempt", Ms Napolitano told Fox News.
Is it amateurish simply because it was detected and didn't kill anyone? How do you define a professional terrorist? And how would she know that it was a "one-off?"

And Bloomberg and Napolitano weren't the only ones.
A couple of hours later, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, stood in front of a CNN camera in Times Square and said, “The odds are quite high that this was a lone wolf.”

Representative Peter T. King of New York, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security, suggested that the reason behind the attempted attack was “the whole issue with ‘South Park,’ which Islamic terrorists were threatening to have retribution for.”
Yes, people on the internet had speculated that there was a connection to "South Park," but someone in an authoritative positions shouldn't be speculating on that any more than Bloomberg should be guessing randomly that it was someone who opposed ObamaCare.

And now that we find that the police have arrested a naturalized citizen from Pakistan, all these pronouncements seem quite silly.

Reactions to this story should be a case study for officials of what not to say when a story is breaking and they really don't know much about what motivated the terrorist and what his connections were. Such unsubstantiated guesses do nothing to allay public concerns.