Terrorists Are Stupid
Josh Marshall voices a question that I’ve had in my head for awhile, too:
I tend to agree that if a young person gets on an international flight, not only with no checked luggage but no carry ons that suggest he plans on ever getting off the plane, that is sort of a tip off. But in these cases, I always wonder: Isn’t it or why isn’t it part of terrorist best practices to just bring some phony luggage? With all the trouble and subterfuge terrorists have to go to get stuff on planes, this seems fairly straightforward. This isn’t a criticism of the policies. And obviously Abdulmutallab didn’t do this. But in cases like this, I always do wonder: why?
Anyone who even remotely keeps up with the news knows that one-way tickets and a lack of luggage are going to raise eyebrows. So, why wouldn’t terrorists — let alone those sent by the well-financed al Qaeda to pull of major jobs — avoid these traps? Surely, Osama can afford to spring for a suitcase — into which the suicide bomber can put his actual crap, since he won’t be needing it, anyway — and a return ticket?
Robert Mackey has a theory: “These guys…are idiots.”
His example is the al Qaeda moron who infiltrated the CIA and then blew up seven low-level agents rather than actually gaining complex intelligence or at least waiting for a higher-profile target. But the examples are legion. Recall that the 1993 World Trade Center terrorists were caught so easily because they went to get the deposit back on their rental van. Or the ineptitude of the shoe bomber and underwear bomber.
To be sure, this is not a new idea. Daniel Pipes has been pushing the “stupid terrorists” meme for years.
Like most other criminals, terrorists just aren’t very smart. Given how lousy we are at catching them, that’s a good thing.