The Islamic center at Ground Zero

It looks like the Islamic cultural center being proposed for construction near the site where the World Trade Center stood before 9/11 will be built:

Plans to build an Islamic cultural center near the World Trade Center site moved forward after New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to allow the demolition of a building that would be replaced by a mosque.

The panel denied landmark status to a long-vacant 152-year- old lower Manhattan building on Park Place, formerly a Burlington Coat Factory department store. The unanimous vote cleared a hurdle for the site to be torn down and the mosque, recreation and cultural center to be built.

The proposed mosque has drawn opposition from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who have called its proposed presence near the site of the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history inappropriate. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn have supported the project.

“To cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists,” Bloomberg said at a news conference today on Governors Island in New York Harbor, within view of the Statue of Liberty, where he was joined by Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy. “No neighborhood in our city is off limits to God’s love and mercy.”

The Cordoba Initiative, the project’s sponsor, describes itself as a pluralistic organization seeking better relations between the Islamic community and other faiths. Plans for the center include a 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool, restaurants, bookstores and space for art exhibitions, according to the organization’s website.

via Ground Zero Mosque Plans Move Forward After Key Vote – Bloomberg.

We do have freedom of religion in this country, so I see no legal basis for preventing this construction.  But this is not just a mosque.  Swimming pool?  restaurants?  And I’d like more information about the Cordoba Initiative.  Is this a Muslim group that claims Islamic sovereignty over Spain?  If so, they are likely radicals.  And is there any doubt that radical Muslims will use this monument as an occasion for triumphalism? But, again, religious freedom has to mean freedom for Muslims and everyone else as well as for Christians.

We can complain about something without thinking that the state should prevent it (a principle that has other applications). [Like what?]

Iraq combat will end August 31

So says the president:

President Obama outlined the changing U.S. role in Iraq on Monday to an organization of disabled veterans, saying that beginning next month the more-than-seven-year war effort will change from a primarily military enterprise to a diplomatic one.

“The hard truth is we have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq,” Obama told the Disabled American Veterans group in a speech in Atlanta. “But make no mistake, our commitment in Iraq is changing–from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats. And as we mark the end of America’s combat mission in Iraq, a grateful America must pay tribute to all who served there.”

His remarks began a month-long effort by the White House designed to remind American voters that Obama campaigned on a pledge to wind down the Iraq war and that he is carrying out those plans largely on schedule.

The U.S. combat mission will end in Iraq at the end of the month, a milestone that comes after a steady troop drawdown since Obama took office.

Some 50,000 U.S. troops are scheduled to remain in Iraq by the end of the month, the deadline Obama had set for the end of the U.S. combat mission. That means more than 90,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines have left Iraq since his inauguration.

But Iraq remains a fragile nation, and its political leadership has warned of a potential power vacuum as U.S. forces leave.

via Obama highlights fulfilled promise of Iraq drawdown in speech to veterans.

So what do you think will happen next?

Revealing the top secret industry

The Washington Post is running a three-part expose of America’s security industry, comprised of government agencies and a huge number of private contractors.  Here is the opening:

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

The investigation’s other findings include:

* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.

via A hidden world, growing beyond control |

My thoughts:

(1)  The story, while fascinating, is irresponsible in revealing names and locations of top-secret facilities, to the point of including an on-line map.  (There is supposedly one in my home town!)

(2)  Conservatives predicted that the creation of yet another layer of Homeland Security would mean the growth of another vast federal bureaucracy, and this seems to be what has happened.

(3)  The main complaint of the story, though, is that all of these spooks and analysts are generating too much information for any one person to take in.  But one person doesn’t have to take it all in.  Agencies find information for those who need it.  Decentralized intelligence, as with much else, can be very effective.  The army unit of that Muslim shrink who killed all those people at Ft. Hood had an intelligence division.  Instead of writing reports about threat alerts and such, which is apparently what they did, they should have kept tabs on their own people.  The head of the CIA didn’t need to do that, but the army division intelligence office did need to.

(4)  What the series does say about what the private contractors do seems to prove their worth, against the thesis of the articles.  One of them invented a way to detect roadside bombs.  Others produce software to guide those drone aircraft that have become the scourge of Al Qaida.  No one can expect government intelligence employees to develop that kind of technology on their own.  Of course they need to use outside contractors.

(5)  That there is waste and redundancy I have no doubt, just as there is in the military.  But we owe all of these folks a lot for keeping us safe.  That’s the government’s major job, according to Romans 13.

Car bomber caught in the nick of time

The Times Square car bomber managed to board an aircraft on its way to the Arab Emirates–despite being on the no fly list–but authorities boarded the plane just before it took off and nabbed him.  The American citizen born in Pakistan, Faisal Shahzad, admitted everything, including training as a terrorist in Pakistan.

As federal agents closed in, Faisal Shahzad was aboard Emirates Flight 202. He reserved a ticket on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, paid cash on arrival and walked through security without being stopped. By the time Customs and Border Protection officials spotted Shahzad’s name on the passenger list and recognized him as the bombing suspect they were looking for, he was in his seat and the plane was preparing to leave the gate.

But it didn’t. At the last minute, the pilot was notified, the jetliner’s door was opened and Shahzad was taken into custody.

After authorities pulled Shahzad off the plane, he admitted he was behind the crude Times Square car bomb, officials said. He also claimed to have been trained at a terror camp in Pakistan’s lawless tribal region of Waziristan, according to court documents. That raised increased concern that the bombing was an international terror plot.

Shahzad, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen, was charged Tuesday with terrorism and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in Saturday evening's failed Times Square bombing. According to a federal complaint, he confessed to buying an SUV, rigging it with a homemade bomb and driving it into the busy area where he tried to detonate it.

via Security slip let suspect on plane, near takeoff – Yahoo! News.

Developments in Times Square car bombing

A Connecticut man was being sought Monday in the failed plot to blow up a bomb-laden SUV in Times Square, sources said.

This “person of interest” bought the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder that was abandoned with the engine running – and with primitive, but potentially deadly payload in the rear – just two weeks ago, law enforcement and police sources told The Daily News.

Investigators aren't certain whether he is the same man who drove the rolling bomb to the Crossroads of the World, but he has not been seen by his girlfriend – and has not shown up at his home or job – since the frightening incident on Saturday night.

Detectives from the NYPD and FBI identified the SUV owner after tracking down the registration of the previous owner, who told investigators he'd sold the vehicle.

The mystery man met the seller through and paid $1,300 cash for the Pathfinder, the Daily News has learned.

The revelation came as:

- The News learned from sources that forensic evidence found in the Pathfinder points to the possibility that whoever prepared the car bomb has links to foreign terrorists.

via Hunt is on for missing Conn. man who bought car bomb Nissan just 2 weeks ago on Craigslist.

What I want to know is, why aren’t they releasing the name of the man who bought the car? Wouldn’t that help if authorities are looking for him? I mean, I have an idea why, but surely political correctness wouldn’t trump the public safety in a case like this. Would it?

UPDATE: Well, as you commenters have pointed out, now we know: He is a Pakistani-American named Faisal Shahzad. I guess the concern was not to make people jump to the conclusion that the suspect is a Muslim.

Car bomb in Times Square

A T-shirt vendor spotted a smoking SUV and alerted some quick-acting cops, who, in turn, called in the Fire Department and the bomb squad.  Thanks to them, a terrorist attack was thwarted Saturday in New York City’s busy Times Square:

The T-shirt vendor – a Vietnam vet – told Officer Wayne Rhatigan there was smoke coming from a Nissan SUV on the southwest corner of 45th St. and Broadway about 6:30 p.m., sources said.

Rhatigan approached the car, saw the smoke and sprang into action.

“I did a lap around the vehicle. The inside was smoking,” Rhatigan told the Daily News. “I smelled gunpowder and knew it might blow. I thought it might blow any second.”

He alerted two rookie female cops patrolling the area. Together, they pushed hundreds of people away from the scene as they called for backup, he said.

The Fire Department and bomb squad rushed to the scene.

What they found was stunning: a running SUV packed with three propane tanks, two red 5-gallon plastic jugs of gasoline, a clock, electrical components and a canister of gunpowder, police sources said.

“We are very lucky,” Mayor Bloomberg said at an early morning press conference at the scene, still in the tuxedo and red bow tie he wore to the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington. “Thanks to alert New Yorkers and professional police officers we avoided what could have been a very deadly event.”

via Time Square car bomb: Cops evacuate heart of NYC after ‘potential terrorist attack’.

The Pakistani Taliban is claiming credit. Some suspect a “South Park” connection, since the bomb was located near Viacom, the production company that owns the satirical cartoon that enraged Muslims for presenting Muhammed in a bear suit. A white male was caught on tape acting “furtively” around the Nissan Pathfinder. Authorities have identified the owner of the vehicle. As of now, the perpetrators are unknown.