Roger L. Simon

The NY Subway Threat - Whose Credibility?

I have spent most of the day in meetings in El Segundo, so the possible attack on the New York subway was no more than a blip on my computer screen until the last half hour or so. It has been instructive to review the posturing of the various media outlets and politicians. You would think that after the recent events in the London Underground, the British Reuters would be the first to take this seriously, but no… In the interest of “even-handedness” (or something) they inform us:

In Washington, one U.S. government official said the New York threat information was of “undetermined credibility.”

Suprisingly, however, Reuters does not, for once, just rely on an anonymous source. They have the brilliant senior senator from New York to back them up.

Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat said: “The threat to the New York subway system was specific but not corroborated and not of the highest credibility.”

Let’s hope for Chuck’s sake (among many others’) that nothing happens, because if it does, that statement will come back to haunt him until his dying day. As it is, he seems like a fool and a posturer. This pose would have been unmasked (although certainly not by his pals at Reuters) by a simple question: “What, pray, sir, determines whether a terrorist’s threat is credible or not?”

Difficult question, isn’t it? In fact, I would say in most circumstances it is almost impossible to answer because the people likely to blow up innocents on subways are not entirely rational and therefore not easily assessed in the normal manner. Indeed the crew who blew up the London tube were a group of ragtag irregulars – evidently not under orders from Bin Laden or anybody else, all easily caught in a matter of days – yet they were able to murder many people.

Would they have been considered credible?

I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Senator Schumer. From my point of view the anonymous government official Reuters quoted is living in a dream land. Not just this threat, but all threats of this nature are “undetermined” until they happen… or not. The rest is just playing politics with people’s lives.