As you might imagine, I have been trying to get in touch with the spirit of my old friend James Jesus Angleton, the late, legendary former chief of CIA counterintelligence, ever since the failed bombing attempt in Times Square. At long last I got to the Ouija board to connect, and after the usual throat clearing (I can’t figure out whether smoking in the world to come is a form of punishment or bliss) there he was.
JJA: I know just why you’re calling. What took you so long?
ML: I couldn’t get the effing device to connect…
JJA: What, you too? The usual jihadi technology?
ML.: Ha ha! Nowadays we are all great admirers of their technology. Saves our lives, seems to blow them up as often as not.
JJA: Which gets us to the first question after all: was Mr. Shahzad supposed to blow himself up or what? He seems to have been trained by experts in suicide terrorism, after all, and the jihad doesn’t like to leave witnesses behind. As my old Israeli friends can tell you, once a terrorist decides he doesn’t want to go to paradise, he’s likely to be very cooperative with those who love life.
ML: Yes, he seems to be quite happy to talk to interrogators, doesn’t be? But that’s a good question. I remember that in Iraq, Al Qaeda recruited young men who were told that they were not going to die, that they only had to place the car bomb or truck bomb close to the target and then walk away. It was always a lie, however, and there was some very grisly evidence. One poor chap was blown out of his truck and ended up in the hospital. When he realized what had happened he went on Iraqi television to warn his fellow jihadis that they shouldn’t believe the recruiters. I wonder how Shahzad feels. He’s certainly got away from his truck in a big hurry, didn’t he?
JJA: Of course he did. His handlers may have made a mistake. On the one hand, he was almost certainly a sleeper. He came here legally, he had assimilated, and he became a citizen. Then they brought him over for training and sent him back to the battlefield. It’s standard operating procedure.
ML: Right. He clearly knew his mission in advance, didn’t he? He got his truck and the bomb components.and he rehearsed it. He drove to Times Square, parked, and went home.
JJA: Yes, and you can see from that little episode that he was very nervous and not very well trained. He locked his keys in the truck, at least according to one account that made it up here. So he went home to get a spare key, heh.
ML: What about the escape? That doesn’t seem to have been well planned.
JJA: Why do you say that? He knew where to go and he knew which airline to take.