An Emerging Part of the Story

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September 19, 2016 1:09 p.m.

I wanted to note an emerging part of the bombing story. The perpetrator (or perpetrators) seems to have made numerous mistakes that led both to the lack of effectiveness of the attack (measured in carnage) and to what appears to be his rapid apprehension. Here are a few details.

In the simplest sense, most of the bombs simply didn’t go off or fizzled without a blast. The placement of the bomb in Chelsea was in an area with relatively little foot traffic.

But a key part of the equation has just emerged this morning. The perpetrators or single perpetrator used cell phones as detonating devices. But the perp appears to have used his or their actual cell phones – not burner phones purchased for this specific purpose but ones they’d used as their cell phones, calling friends and associates, storing personal information. In at least one case, that phone was part of a bomb that didn’t detonate. So NYPD and FBI investigators were able to secure the phone and download lots of personal information, call records etc. Initial reports suggest this was a key break leading to the arrest of suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami.

I should be clear: the police work by the NYPD, FBI, JCTTF has been amazing. This is in no way to suggest that this was easy. But the would-be perpetrator seems to have made numerous mistakes – some just failures of preparing the bombs correctly (not terribly surprising, he’s not a professional demolitions expert or bomb maker) but also seemingly obvious mistakes like using their own cell phones.

There’s one additional detail. Initial reports suggest Rahami was found sleeping in the doorway of a local bar in Linden, New Jersey, about four miles away from his home. It’s not clear whether he just decided this place was a good place to sleep or whether he maybe got drunk in the bar. But he was apparently in plain view, asleep in the doorway, when a Linden police officer recognized him from the wanted poster and approached.

I guess it’s possible that he’d been up since Saturday and had no place he could go to sleep. Perhaps he got drunk in the bar? But it seems part of a pattern of a perpetrator who thankfully made lots of mistakes which limited the damage he was able to do and led to his rapid capture.

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