There is something fishy about Saturday's arrest of
Jose Pimentel, a 27-year-old U.S. citizen and Manhattan resident accused of plotting to attack U.S. servicemen and police officers. Labeled a "total
lone wolf" by Mayor Bloomberg, the NYPD reportedly used a confidential informant and wiretaps to surveil Pimentel for at least two years. The NYPD gathered evidence via
Pimentel's "radical" website, his conversations with the informant concerning bomb-building and his alleged motivations to step up his planning after
the government's killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki by drone strike in September. So, with this lengthy investigation and seemingly incriminatory
evidence -- coupled with the report that Pimentel was arrested a mere hour before finishing building his bomb -- where was the FBI in this ordeal?
Information sharing among the intelligence community was a crucial recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, and the need to "bring down the wall" between federal, state and
local intelligence and law enforcement entities was expanded upon in the 2005 WMD Commission Report. These recommendations have sparked numerous changes within
the intelligence community -- arguably the most visible of which being the establishment of at least seventy-two "fusion centers" across the country.
And the principle behind fusion centers -- information sharing and collaboration among federal, state, local and tribal intelligence and law
enforcement entities -- is being mirrored in various localities. Increased information sharing is supposed to pair the expertise and scope of federal
agencies with local law enforcement's proximity to local communities to better effectuate investigations of terrorism plots.
But here, the NYPD reportedly
tried to get the FBI involved in its investigation of Pimentel at least twice. And both times the FBI refused. Sources state that FBI officials
concluded that Pimentel did not have the "predisposition or the ability" to carry out his alleged plot. Yet with the evidence gathered during the
NYPD's prolonged stakeout of Pimentel, which purportedly included "numerous conversations" with the informant about Pimentel's wish to build bombs and
Pimentel's personal website and blog posts supporting al-Qaida, why couldn't the NYPD convince the FBI -- the agency most experienced in investigating
domestic terror plots -- that Pimentel posed a serious threat? Why couldn't the NYPD get the FBI involved in what Mayor Bloomberg referred to as "the
type of threat FBI Director Robert Mueller has warned about"?
The questions far outnumber the answers, and somewhere the dots just do not connect. Representative Peter King has already come forward with a renewed call to
scrutinize "radicalized Muslim converts like Jose Pimentel." Yet in the face of the -- albeit alarming -- details surrounding Pimentel's alleged plot,
this incident cannot turn into a campaign among local and federal law enforcement for increased authority to conduct terror investigations. The NYPD
and FBI have far more than sufficient tools -- arguably overbroad tools -- to cooperate and investigate true threats. Instead, where one entity cannot
convince the other of the severity of a suspected threat, the focus of the inquiry must turn back around to the agency conducting the investigation --
and the target, the evidence, and most importantly, the agency's tactics must be reexamined.