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05-13-2010, 06:52 PM
USA: US rushed to judgment on Times Square suspect

WASHINGTON, (DAWN): Senior US officials “jumped their gun” on the Times Square suspect Faisal Shahzad when they claimed that he was a trained member of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, The Washington Post wrote on Tuesday.

In a regular column titled ‘Spy Talk,’ which reports on the activities of the US intelligence community, the Post named two senior officials, Attorney General Eric Holder and White House terrorism adviser John Brennan, who it believed rushed to judgment on this issue.

“The attorney general’s remarks, echoed by White House terrorism adviser John Brennan … smack of politics,” wrote columnist Jeff Stein.

He recalled that Gen David Petraeus, who, as the top US commander for the Middle East, “presumably possessed the best intelligence on the area”, declared that Shahzad acted as a “lone wolf” who was “inspired by militants in Pakistan but didn’t have direct contact with them”.

Yet Gen Petraeus’s “judgment has gotten far less traction than a week’s worth of White House-supplied leaks, and now outright declarations, that Shahzad was an agent of the TTP, and by extension Al Qaeda — the original reason for invading Afghanistan”, he wrote.

Former CIA Middle East counterterrorism operative Robert Baer agreed.

“The TTP knows how to make car bombs, set off explosions,” he told the Post. “So why didn’t they teach him [better]? And why didn’t they give him some scratch to pull this off?”

“Petraeus,” Mr Baer said, “seems to be the only one these days feeling secure enough to tell the truth.”

Mr Stein noted that “conspiracy sells so much better on TV than lone-wolf” and that’s why the US media ignored the general’s assessment.

The columnist also blamed internal US politics for “jumping the gun”.

“It’s also an irresistible narrative for a White House that has to constantly fend off posturing critics and right-wing nuts on Fox News.

Message: We know who they are. We’re on the case.”

Mr Stein described Faisal Shahzad as “a walking can of gasoline,” noting that “for any administration, dealing with that is much, much harder than placing Shahzad in a terrorist conspiracy and flinging more feel-good Hellfire missiles at Pakistan”.

Mr Stein noted that on Sunday, Secretary of State Clinton threatened the Pakistani government over Shahzad.

“We want more. We expect more,” she said on 60 Minutes. “We’ve made it very clear that if, heaven forbid, an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences.”

“Oh? Like what? Send the drones over the presidential palace in Islamabad? Cut off aid?” asked Mr Stein.

“This is grandstanding at its worst. And it will do nothing to stem the spreading radicalisation of people like Shahzad.”

He then quoted from an article former Clinton and Bush White House terrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke wrote in The Washington Post on Sunday.

“Of course we need to keep the pressure on Al Qaeda and its allies. We’ve taken down dozens of its senior operatives in recent months,” Mr Clarke wrote.

“But what about trying something else as well, on top of the drones and shrill demands that Pakistan “do more”?

“Imagine if, after a fatal attack, President Obama responded by proposing greater outreach to Muslim communities domestically and around the world, in an effort to undercut radicalisation,” Mr Clarke wrote.

“That is precisely what we and other nations should be doing, but it would undoubtedly be decried as a weak, starry-eyed reaction by our commander in chief, especially after an attack that revealed deficiencies in our counterterrorism system.” President Obama “has extended an olive branch to our enemies before. He should keep doing it — including to Pakistanis trapped in the vortex of terrorism,” Mr Stein concluded.