The Incredible Shrinking Bomb Plot

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING BOMB PLOT….The Associated Press provides the latest news on the airline bombing plot:

Home Secretary John Reid, Britain’s chief law-and-order official, acknowledged that some of the suspects would likely not be charged with major criminal offenses, but said there was mounting evidence of a “substantial nature” to back the allegations.

“Mounting” evidence? Shouldn’t we already have lots of evidence after over a year of intensive surveillance? WTF is going on here? And then there’s this:

Two top Pakistani intelligence agents said Wednesday that the would-be bombers wanted to carry out an al-Qaida-style attack to mark the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 strikes, but were too “inexperienced” to carry out the plot.

The two senior agents, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that if the terror cell members arrested in Pakistan and Britain had appropriate weapons and explosives training, they could have emulated massive attacks like those five years ago in New York and Washington as well as the July 7, 2005, London bombings.

Sure, and if I had an IQ of 200 and a PhD in oncology maybe I could find a cure for cancer. But since I don’t, no one should stay up nights waiting for me to produce one. Likewise, there are lots of dimwit copycats who’d like to be the next Osama bin Laden, but they’re not worth more than a routine roundup unless they have the serious operational capacity to do something about it. These guys, on the contrary, “had not attended terror-training camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan and had relied on information gleaned from text books on how to make bombs.”

So: was this a serious conspiracy? Or was it like the plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge that turned out to be a mentally disturbed dude with a blowtorch? Or the financial district alert in New York City that turned out to be based on information more than three years old? Or the plot to blow up the Sears Tower that turned out to be “more aspirational than operational”? Or Jose Padilla? What news about this plot are we going to discover buried on page A13 a couple of weeks from now?

I won’t pretend to know what to think about the way this has been handled. Was it about winning elections? Building public support for draconian security legislation? Plain old bureaucratic incompetence?

Or was it real?