Judith Miller, the reporter who covered the weapons of mass destruction beat for the New York Times in early 2003, had an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal yesterday called "How to Stop Terrorists Before They Kill." I noticed it via Media Matters.
The piece impresses by sheer suppositional variety of modal verbs, hypothetical logic, and conditional syntax. Here are some highlights with emphasis added, in honor of Miller's own work:
The Boston Police Department responded with extraordinary skill to last week's marathon bombing, but some terrorism experts say that the attack, which killed three people and injured more than 200, may well have been prevented entirely had the perpetrators lived in New York City.
The 1,000 cops and analysts who work in the NYPD's intelligence and counterterrorism divisions, for instance, would likely have flagged Tamerlan Tsarnaev for surveillance
New York cops almost surely would have monitored Tamerlan -- the elder of the two brothers -- if they had known that Russia had warned the FBI in 2011 that he was an Islamic radical, that he was potentially dangerous, and that he had spent several months in Dagestan, a Russian republic with an Islamic insurgency, in 2012.
Another red flag would have been Tamerlan's ejection from his local mosque, the Islamic Society of Boston, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
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.
Once the department had Tamerlan under surveillance, the NYPD's cyberunit might have detected his suspicious online viewing choices and social-media postings. Other detectives might have picked up his purchase of a weapon, gunpowder and even a pressure cooker
Even if the NYPD hadn't been watching Tamerlan, it might have been tipped off to such suspicious purchases thanks to its Nexus program.
It is at least possible that these cameras might have alerted officials to the presence of the abandoned backpacks containing the bombs.
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.
And here's the kicker:
Reporters for the Associated Press won a Pulitzer Prize last year for a series of articles critical of the NYPD's surveillance program. But the NYPD credits the program with helping to thwart as many as 16 terrorist attacks on the city since 9/11. That sort of police work isn't singled out for prizes, but maybe it will inspire police in other American cities -- wondering about stopping their own version of the Tsarnaevs -- to take a fresh look at how New York does it.