Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The first signs of a plot? (UPDATED at 4:08 p.m. EDT)

1st UPDATE: The New York Times reports on the charges handed down today against Shahzad:

Faisal Shahzad, a U.S. citizen from Pakistan who admitted his role in attempting to explode a car bomb in Times Square, has been charged with five counts, including conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction, and told investigators he received bomb-making training in the militant strongholds of western Pakistan.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to accept any idea that Shahzad acted alone. Granted, he might have been the only one inside the U.S. to have built the rudimentary bomb, but his purported training in Pakistan eliminates the contention that Shahzad was a one-man band.

ORIGINAL POST: FOX News is reporting that as many as 8 people have been arrested in Pakistan in connection with the failed bomb attack on Times Square.

This information is the first that hints at Faisal Shahzad not acting alone.

The Associated Press reports that Shahzad has been speaking to investigators about what he knows. Of course, what he knows (or claims to know) will effectthe "he acted alone" headline.

The New York Times -- continuing its superb reporting of this story to date -- also reports the naturalized citizen has said he did in fact plan the attack by himself. Call me skeptical, if for no other reason that Shahzad recently spent five months in Pakistan (and was likely seeking to return there when he was pulled off a plane last night).

Let's presume there is an international connection to this failed attack. The Washington Post notes the diplomatic repercussions it could have on U.S.-Pakistani relations. Moreover, the speed with which Pakistani police made their arrests today suggests at first blush that the government is demonstrating it wants to be perceived as an ally.

As the events associated with this story develop, we can expect conflicting information to come out. It will be easy for those who enjoy bashing the American media to quickly point out the reporting errors that are made. Those critics ought know better. Do not misunderstand me, I'm not suggesting mistakes are acceptable. Rather, I am suggesting that as the media access their sources -- some of whom will be closer to the center of the investigative team than others -- bits and strands of information will be disseminated to the media. Some of it will be factual; some of it will be speculative.

I am reminded again of one of the favorite phrases of one of my colleagues at Point Park University: "Journalism is the first draft of history." No first draft will be perfect, so let's at least acknowledge that the reporting to this point has been quite good.

Now, one interview that I would be interested in seeing is with someone who was on the plane when Shahzad was taken off it. I imagine there is a cellphone video moment.

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