By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Paltalk News Network
The feds say they thwarted the largest terrorist attack against the United States since September 11, 2001 with the arrest of Afghan national Najibullah Zazi. They have evidence, apparently circumstantial in nature, of a plot. Based on writings they found on a laptop computer. They have backpacks ceased in raids of homes he visited in Queens. But what they don't have are the bombs Zazi purportedly was going to direct at New York targets.
The government has let it be known that at least a dozen alleged confederates remain at large, and, it's possible, that at least one of those suspects may have the bombs or the bomb making material. But so far: nothing.
Police and federal agents even raided storage facilities in a bid to find the elusive explosives.
It may very well be true that Zazi was, as charged, preparing a massive attack, or even series of attacks, on New York City. And that those attacks were timed to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11. But without the smoking gun - in this case the bombs or bomb making material - the government's case is weak.
It's true that the government alleges that Zazi had been searching beauty supply shops for materials that could be used in making bombs. No doubt, as they tailed him, those visits raised alarms for the agents who were watching him.
It's a tough balance that faces law enforcement when it comes to investigating alleged terror plots. If you move in too quickly, you risk not having enough evidence to build a successful case. If you wait too long, you risk the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of people.
I doubt that the agents were involved in a wild goose chase. There's no way they would put the kind of time, effort and resources into this investigation if they weren't very certain that a terrorist plot was in the making. And they wouldn't have moved in as swiftly as they did had they not feared the consequences of just watching a little bit longer.
So for that, we thank them. They can sleep with the knowledge that they probably thwarted - once again - a terrorist attack on the United States. But that will never be enough for the men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting the rest of us. They won't be satisfied, nor will they rest, until they have the evidence in hand, and the alleged co-conspirators in custody.