Judith Miller’s Absurd Take on Boston

Judith Miller’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal, titled “How to Stop Terrorists Before They Kill,” is just as bad as you think it would be.

In its basest form, Miller’s article contrasts the New York Police Department’s robust counterterrorism program with Boston officialdom’s jester-like handling of the Boston marathon bombings. She even goes so far as to state, “some terrorism experts say that the attack…may well have been prevented entirely had the perpetrators lived in New York City.”

Leaving aside the questions of who “some terrorism experts” are, Miller’s own questionable track record as an expert reporter, and the article’s completely ridiculous title, this piece is both meaningless and mean. It pits New York against Boston in the aftermath of a tragedy so bad that even the Yankees came out with support for Boston.

Miller’s article is so full of such subjunctive phrases as “almost surely would have” and “would likely have,” that even a politician’s response to sexual allegations sounds more straightforward.

She also quotes experts who have a stake in pimping for New York’s program, since they helped build it. They play Monday morning quarterback like pros, saying things like, “[Tsarnaev’s] behavioral changes alone—never mind his overseas trip and Russia’s warning to the FBI that he was a radical—would have been more than enough to trigger NYPD scrutiny.”

Sure, maybe. Maybe not. Let’s not forget that the would-be Times Square car bomber only came to NYPD’s attention after some street vendors noticed smoke coming from the car.

And according to Miller, “In New York, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s mosque quarrel and his sudden behavioral changes might well have been reported by concerned worshipers, the imam himself, or other fellow Muslims. The NYPD maintains close ties to Muslim preachers and community leaders, as well as a network of tipsters and undercover operatives.” There’s that subjunctive phrasing again, “might well have been reported,” falling well below any threshold of certainty. In addition, Miller fails to supply any evidence to say such relationships between law enforcement and the community did not (or do not continue to) exist in Boston.

She concludes, “Finally, there is the NYPD’s continuing effort to understand Muslim communities and follow tips and leads by sending plainclothes officers to mosques, restaurants and other public venues where Muslims congregate. This effort—which follows court-ordered guidelines—might have secured information preventing last week’s bombings.” Again, using her subjunctive phrasing, she fails to prove that such efforts did not take place in Boston.

It is true that New York has an incredibly robust counterterrorism program. The program has its supporters and its critics. But no matter what you think of it, writing an article that essentially sets New York against Boston in the sport of counterterrorism, as if New York is sneering at Beantown saying, “Ha-ha, we would have done better than you,” is just simply absurd.

Let me know what you think. Do you approve of the NYPD’s program? Do you think Boston  officials dropped the ball? Send me your comments!

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