Terrorism

Once Again, Lack of Surveillance Wasn't Issue in New York Terror Attack

Another case where calls for 'mass snooping' ignore other avenues for information.

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Matthew McDermott/Polaris/Newscom

Today's reporting about Ahmad Khan Rahami, the man charged with setting up explosive devices in New York and New Jersey and injuring dozens, should reinforce a position against mass surveillance, not encourage it. Our "failure" to engage in mass surveillance against groups of people on the basis of their ethnicity or religion or immigration status isn't what's leaving us vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

Mohammad Rahami, Ahmad's father, told the press today that he contacted the FBI in 2014 to warn them that he was worried something was wrong with his son. Ahmad had been accused of stabbing his brother during a domestic dispute. According to The New York Times, the FBI took the complaint and interviewed the father. The father then, according to the FBI, recanted his allegations.

Mind you, violent family disputes shouldn't on their own be treated as indicators of radicalization. The Times is terribly short on details of what this fight was about. But just as the Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen had a background that suggested some problems, so is the case with Rahami.

And that, then, raises the question of what exactly the FBI should have or could have done about these accusations. If an examination of the cases of Rahami and Mateen didn't give the FBI enough information to actually intervene and react to what was happening (and it's possible it didn't), what exactly is the benefit of mass surveillance?

The emphasis on mass surveillance from the likes of Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani approach a very cinematic idea of backroom whispers and conspiracies. Perhaps that attitude is exactly why New York's secret mass surveillance program of Muslim communities failed to actually stop any terror plots. When you're given very specific, troubled young men to keep an eye on, and ultimately that leads nowhere, what is the evidence that some sort of mass surveillance would have helped here or anywhere else?

Let's also add that that the father himself taking the initiative to contact the FBI is significant, even if he backed down. There's no perfect solution to determining when somebody living in America becomes radicalized, but certainly the willingness of family members to step forward will play a major role. If all Muslims are treated with suspicion, they're going to be less likely to be willing to communicate with authorities.

Read more about the latest in the investigation here.

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93 responses to “Once Again, Lack of Surveillance Wasn't Issue in New York Terror Attack

  1. But, but, but… government has to do something!

    1. And it worked for Jack Bauer!

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    2. The ironic thing is they did do something. They used good ol’ fashioned investigative techniques combined with a little luck to catch the guy in less than 36 hours.

  2. There’s no perfect solution to determining when somebody living in America becomes radicalized

    Bullshit, Scott. It is perfectly correlated to the amount of Mountain Dew consumption. Next you’ll be trying to tell us that there is no way to know when someone is totally stoked.

      1. When I was a teenage stoner, I had a friend who liked to use “stoked” to mean really, really stoned. It was a combo of “stoned”+”toked”.

    1. Dew sucks. Drink more Jolt.

      1. Slurms MacKenzie respectfully disagrees.

    2. “Hayek is a sellout…give me Rothbard all the way!”

      “Radical, dude!”

    3. Never forget: HM’s meme links can get you in trouble. For example: never tell a woman she is a hoe because she uses dog filter. Don’t do it. Even if it’s fun. Even if it makes you laugh. Even if she had a sense of humor at some point. Don’t do it.

        1. Yeah, but Nichiren was hella basic.

          1. Nichiren is fleek.

          2. Yes, like the Pure Land School, Nichiren focused on the commoners. What of it?

            1. Namu Butsu Amida

        2. So true. She called me up hours later and made me apologize for saying she a hoe, and then I had to say that she was not a hoe. So, I said, “You not a hoe” until she stopped asking.

    4. That commercial: talk of being extreme, rocket fuel, admonitions to “get in the air”… Oh my god, you’re right!!

  3. What is the benefit of mass surveillance?

    Budgets and power justified thru fear.

    1. Awesome YouTube videos?

  4. I for one am going to pay a little more attention when ordering from my local halal cart.

  5. Oh, if the FBI followed up on every father who’s called them on his son, they wouldn’t get anything done. We’re missing the real lesson from this, which is that the country must invest in its trashcan infrastructure. And it just so happens that my line of reinforced public refuse receptacles is available for federal, state and municipal contracting at very reasonable yearly rates.

    1. Wrong. The real lesson is that we should have an army of bums scavengers looking out for America.

      1. I love that at least one of the bombs was disarmed by a bum who just ripped the wires out.

        None of this “Blue wire, red wire, OMG I DON”T KNOW WHAT TO CUT!”.

        1. Not to worry, when they make the TV movie, it’ll be a down-on-his luck, just grizzled enough to be sex, Iraq war veteran form the IED squad who does have to cut the right wire and thus avenge his traumatic mistake that killed his buddy.

          1. Are you sure you are in the right line of work?

            1. I’m certainly not cut out for copy editing. Shit

        2. I’m pretty sure real bombs almost never work like that outside of movies. Just cut the wires.

        3. Law & Order: SSU

          In the criminal justice system, abandoned luggage offenses are considered especially heinous.
          In New York City, the dedicated homeless who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Stoop Sleeper Unit. These are their stories…

          1. The cliche in *that* one will be that the most effective of all the bums is actually moderately intelligent and has no mental health issues at all.

            Counter to all the ‘brilliant detective is also kind of crazy’ shows that keep popping up.

          2. The cliche in *that* one will be that the most effective of all the bums is actually moderately intelligent and has no mental health issues at all.

            Counter to all the ‘brilliant detective is also kind of crazy’ shows that keep popping up.

            1. He chooses to live on the street to revenge his murdered son.

              dun-dun-dundunDUN

        4. We need to subsidize tweakers looking for copper to recycle for money.

          1. I already made my contribution – some tweaker stole all the pipes out from under my house right before i moved in.

      2. And I suppose you just so happen to have a line of state of the art bums ready to hawk to Washington.

        1. I’m just waiting for a homeless person to fall in the line of duty…

          ROBOBUM

          6 months ’til prototype, max.

          1. Dammit! That’s already taken! Wait…

            ROBOHOBO

            1. wait! We’ll set in Chelsea!

              HOMOROBO!

            2. Bum With a Pipebomb!

              1. Isn’t that a mixed drink, Robitussin and pure grain over shaved ice?

              1. Isn’t that just a cop?

                1. Cops make $100k plus. Ain’t none of them hobos.

  6. It’s too late. The government doesn’t give up power once it gets it.

    I despise the government monitoring our activity. But I’m also not stupid enough to act as if it isn’t an effective way to stop these kind of things. It won’t stop 100% of them. It does stop some though. You just don’t hear about them because they catch the fucker before they can carry anything out. Which is why there are many Americans who actually support the government watching us all.

    1. It does stop some though.

      Bullshit

    2. To my understanding the only terrorist plots that have been foiled were organized by FBI agent saboteurs.

    3. You just don’t hear about them because they catch the fucker before they can carry anything out.

      We don’t hear about them because they don’t exist. If they existed then they’d be bragging about them and using them as justification to increase their budgets, not to mention the politicians who would be crowing from the rooftops about how we need more monitoring because “It works!”

      Sorry, but it doesn’t.

      1. Not to mention feasting on the tears of ISIS and/or figuring out who the fuck we should(n’t) be backing in Syria.

      2. You don’t honestly believe that shit?

        You think they’d tell us about the Muslim terrorist they stopped before they could kill people?

        Please. They cover that shit up without thinking twice.

        The Obama administration tried to cover up the Orlando shooter being a Muslim by redacting that information even though the entire world already knew what he was.

        1. How could they cover it up? It’s a law enforcement issue. That’s public record.

          1. Haha. Transparent government? Yeah, right.

            And according to the Heritage Foundation, there have been at least 60 attempted attacks that were thwarted since 9/11. And that’s according to a report from 2013. So you’d expect even more since it’s now 2016.

            1. there have been at least 60 attempted attacks that were thwarted since 9/11

              But curiously no more detail than the number is available anywhere. You’d think if they’re foiling these things left and right, they’d at least be able to go into some detail on a few of them.

              The ones we do know about are where the FBI played an integral role in fomenting the plot in the first place.

              1. But curiously no more detail than the number is available anywhere

                Go fill out a FOIA request.

                hahahahhahahahahaha

              2. That’s not even remotely true. Look it up. Takes two seconds to find a list with names and details.

                1. I’ll give Heritage Foundation credit for enumerating the individuals and the charges. What I’m not seeing is an explanation of how the USA PATRIOT Act’s provisions were essential to thwarting the plot.

                  1. How exactly do you think the government agencies who arrested these people discovered what they were up to without invading their privacy?

                    Do you believe they made t-shirts that said, “I’m gonna blow up the Sears Tower tomorrow?”

                    1. The government has had the power to spy on foreigners abroad, and anyone who the FISC issues a warrant for, since long before the USA PATRIOT Act was passed. Heritage insists that the USA PATRIOT Act is essential but provides no indication of why.

                    2. You would need to have access to each report in its entirety to see exactly how everything played out to answer that question. But we will never have access to those, because agencies like the FBI refuse to show us their tactics.

                      Their excuse is it’s because then the bad guys would know how to avoid them. I’m sure that’s partly true. I’m also sure it’s partly because they violate our rights to do so.

                      You really don’t need to look any further than the NSA monitoring our phone calls for proof of this. And the shady, completely opaque court that oversees that whole shitshow and provides “warrants.”

                    3. Well I’m going to remain skeptical on the effectiveness of methods that they refuse to disclose the effectiveness of.

                    4. Do you believe they made t-shirts that said, “I’m gonna blow up the Sears Tower tomorrow?”

                      They likely trolled them online suggesting some plot, got some dope to go along who would have never done anything on their own, sucked them in, and then arrested them. Entrapment all the way. But it’s OK because terrorism.

        2. The Obama administration tried to cover up the Orlando shooter being a Muslim by redacting that information even though the entire world already knew what he was.

          That doesn’t contradict sarcasmic’s point (or even have much to do with it), because that was a failure on the part of the feds, not a success. How many times was Mateen interviewed by the FBI?

          1. It’s concrete evidence of the government attempting to cover up Muslim terrorism in the US.

            1. Not really, its concrete evidence of the government hoping to whitewash a failure of their surveillance program.

            2. They’re doing an exceedingly shitty job of it.

              To the point where attempting to cover it up might be better stated as trying to frame it in a politically favorable manner.

              1. “They’re doing an exceedingly shitty job of it.”

                Yup. Like I said, they redacted the guy’s Muslim sounding name and the fact that he was praising Allah during the attack, even though all those things had already been reported ad nauseam.

                But that’s the government for you. If they were actually good at things, they’d have gotten jobs in the private sector.

        3. They tell us about the Muslims they entrap in fake plots cooked up by the FBI.

    4. I wouldn’t support it even if it did work (and no, you’ve haven’t convinced me that it does).

      1. I don’t support it either.

      2. Yup.

        I’m sure strict curfews, warrantless searches in the middle of the night and GPS tracking bracelets for everyone in the country would work to stop some attacks too. So I guess we’d better have that.

        1. One can argue the effectiveness of their tactics without endorsing them. That having been said, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence for effectiveness besides a) a lack of attacks, and b) an inverse correlation between liberty and safety.

          a) is quite debatable, there have been lots of attacks lately and there have been attacks outside the U.S. in countries with governments as powerful and more powerful than ours.

          b) is a common assumption, based upon a perceived trade-off between the two, but in fact you can have neither liberty nor safety; there was little liberty in East Germany and the STASI was quite powerful, but it was a terrorist organization in its own right.

          1. You can have liberty without safety. You can not have safety without liberty.

        2. Better yet, we should have a remote-controlled vial of neurotoxin implanted in everyone’s brain at birth and give the activation code to the government. That way, if someone tries to carry out a terrorist attack, the government can just release the toxin into their brain and kill them instantly!

          I mean, it would probably prevent a terror attack at some point, so why not? What could possibly go wrong? Anyone who is against this plan must be some kind of sicko who wants to see children die or something.

  7. I think we’ve gone beyond the point of simply monitoring members of specific religious groups.

    If I recall the Snowden revelations correctly, the government was monitoring just about *everyone.* And presumably still is.

    1. Which is why it does no good. Too much information to sift through.

      1. They have programs to hone in on specific words and phrases.

        If you Google how to make a bomb, or visit ISIS’ Twitter page, you can bet your ass that your internet activity is getting monitored after that.

        1. You give them too much credit.

          1. It’s not a secret that companies like Google and Twitter give all their information to government agencies.

            Nor is it a secret that the NSA is monitoring our phone calls.

  8. That fried chicken stand was real the whole time!?

        1. Y’all just keep on gettin’ inta yer dead chickens? To each his own, I say?

          Me, I ahms into MILK!!! As fresh as possible, straight-from-the-teat-raw is best?
          Also I like my cows that look like this…
          ? http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0310/S00003.htm ?

      1. Oh man that looks good.

  9. I, for one, am glad that Mayor DeBlasio has taken the lead in adding an extra layer of bums and thieves to NYC in order to make the place safe from terrorism. You mooks keep trying to demonize him for saving lives!

  10. I condemn Johnson/Weld 2016’s plan to hire thousands of new FBI agents to spy on potential terrorists. Just stop ’em at the border.

    1. So you support Trump’s plan to hire thousands of new DHS agents?

      1. I condemn that as well!

        I hate the B.P.

  11. The best thing to do is import middle eastern jihadi’s then assign a team of FBI agents to spy on everyone to prevent racism and blowie up people who definitely are not more likely to be Muslims.

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