New York Mayor, Mike Bloomberg got everyone on edge last night when he scheduled a press conference to make an announcement that was touted as “terrorist related”. Of course everybody immediately began thinking about how a terrorist warning was imminent and how it might effect the upcoming U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.
What materialized was the report of an arrest made of Jose Pimentel who had built a pipe bomb in his bedroom from plans gotten on the Internet. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying here to trivialize the serious results that were avoided. While the bomb was not going to take down a building or anything, it could easily have injured or killed a dozen people if properly deployed.
But I can’t help but regard the whole thing as a little odd. When the Mayor scheduled a press conference with about an hour’s notice on a Sunday night, everybody was expecting a warning of some threat. Using this Sunday evening press conference seems to be just a little overkill for an arrest like this. Had it been a warning, I could understand it, but an arrest could just as easily waited till the next day. Having it on a Sunday night overemphasized it’s importance and made sure that families were all watching.
In fact this event has several facets that seem unusual. Why would the police rush to reconstruct the bomb so that it could be videoed and presented as part of the press conference? That’s something that would be done by the prosecution as part of a trial. Having a video of an exploding car seems excessively demonstrative; they wanted to make a certain kind of impression. Also, why does the Mayor go out of his way to specify, not only the web site from which Pimentel got his bomb plans, but the actual article? “How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom.” That’s going to be one busy web site today!
It just all seems a little contrived. One can only be pleased that this terrorist was caught (though it seems that he’s been under investigation for half a year) and I don’t quibble with the police force wanting to toot their horn a little for a job well done, but the whole presentation seems off.
What would be the motives for doing it this way? I can only speculate, -and I know that I’m opening myself up to accusations of paranoia. Having an announcement like this just before Thanksgiving definitely plays the fear card. It points out how important it is to have law and order in high profile. This might be a desirable card for the Mayor and police to play up in light of the Occupy protesters and the eventual need for the police to take more assertive action with them. New Yorkers will feel better about any eventual police action because they know that the police must be looking out for their best interests. Also, pointing out the Internet connection adds some fuel to demands made by some more conservative elements of society to have the power to regulate and censor the Internet. (This of course being ridiculous since any regulation would just be subverted by hackers and net-savvy people. If you don’t have bomb plans on a web site, they’d just turn up on newsgroups or FTP sites.) Internet regulation is one of the worst things that can happen as it is one of the key things maintaining freedom of speech. It’s like saying that the government should be allowed to control books and newspapers because there is subversive print material out there.
Had the announcement been made this morning and everybody got to pat each other on the back, I would have no issue. The fact that it was an emergency press conference called on a Sunday night, complete with exciting visual aids, makes it look like a melodrama.