May 5, 2010 7:07 a.m.
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Seeing the coverage this morning of the almost-escape of Faisal Shahzad, I wonder if we don’t simply have unrealistic expectations. After all, if Mr. Shahzad’s plane had taken off, the Feds had … what? ten hours or more to figure out he was on it and easily have him taken into custody when his plane put down in Dubai? I remember having a similar sense with many of the so-called intelligence failures leading up to the 9/11 attacks. Surely, by definition, 9/11 was a colossal intelligence failure for the simple reason that it happened and killed so many people. But do any of us really think the default, operations as usual, is that every attempt to pull off a terrorist attack is found out ahead of time? Given the amount of freedom we expect walking the streets free from searches and easy international travel, that strikes me as naive.

Not that I expect this lead to any necessary conclusions or make anyone feel better. This whole incident happened about twenty blocks from where I live, where my wife and two small boys live; I’m hardly blase about it. But I wonder how much our expectations aren’t driven by television and the movies.

Curious what you think.

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