A TALE OF TWO FAILED PLOTS…. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was at the center of a terrorist plot to kill Americans last year. Najibullah Zazi was at the center of a terrorist plot to kill Americans last year. Both targeted U.S. transportation — Abdulmutallab intended to attack on a plane, Zazi on a New York subway — and both, fortunately, were thwarted and taken into custody.
The former became the subject of intense media interest, heated political debate, and far-right apoplexy. The latter has been largely ignored, especially by conservatives. Kevin Drum wonders why.
Am I missing something here? Because I don’t remember Fox News putting Zazi on a 24/7 loop and insisting that trial in a civilian court was basically a surrender to al-Qaeda. The right wing world doesn’t seem to be objecting to this latest development, either. Why? Is blowing up an airplane somehow different from blowing up a subway? Are civilian courts and Miranda rights OK if the terrorist plot is broken up before it can be carried out, but not after? Or what? I’m a little confused about the conservative position on this stuff. Help me out.
The disconnect is interesting, isn’t it? Zazi, who was reportedly close to executing the worst domestic terrorist attack since 9/11, was treated the same way all suspected terrorists taken into U.S. custody are treated — law enforcement prevented the attack, arrested the suspect, read him his rights, gave him a lawyer, charged him, and put him behind bars.
This should, in theory, outrage Republicans, right? GOP official don’t believe counter-terrorism is a law enforcement issue, don’t want suspected terrorists to be treated like criminals, and don’t want them to be imprisoned on American soil. So why would the right stay silent?
I suspect it’s because the Zazi case makes the Obama administration look fantastic, and conservatives would just as soon hope that no American ever hears about the story at all.
Indeed, this story is a classic example of the American system working to perfection, executed by officials who got everything right. A radical, al Qaeda-recruited terrorist and some accomplices were close to setting off deadly explosives in the two busiest subway stations in New York City. The consequences would have been devastating had they succeeded. Instead, federal officials learned of the plot, realized the attack was near, and prevented a catastrophe.
Once in custody, the administration followed the rule of law and it worked wonders — Zazi cooperated with authorities, provided valuable intelligence, and rolled over on his accomplices. There was no torture, no military commissions, no Gitmo.
By any reasonable measure, from top to bottom, this was counter-terrorism working beautifully. The U.S. officials who made this happen are heroes.
So, why aren’t Republicans whining incessantly? Because that would shine a light on the case, and that’s the last thing conservatives want.
Conversely, why don’t Democrats shine a light on the case, and maybe try to bring the story to the public’s attention? Perhaps because, even now, Dems choose not to emphasize national security, even when it’s a tremendous victory for a Democratic administration.