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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The bombs

I spent much of yesterday "provisionally persuaded" that the NY-NJ bombing case was less interesting than it at first appeared. Ahmad Khan Rahami was a young employee of his family's fried chicken restaurant. He became miffed by his neighbors, who complained that the joint stayed open longer than permitted by ordnance. Anti-Muslim comments from one neighbor (a likely Trump voter...?) may have caused Rahami to go off the deep end.

The fairly crude bombs were easily traced to him: His fingerprints were literally all over the devices. Unbelievably, he used a personal cell phone -- not a burner -- as a trigger. The cops found him sleeping in the doorway or foyer of a bar in NJ, on the run and bereft of a place to hide.

Given the circumstances, it's hard to believe that this man had accomplices. It's also hard to believe that he ever possessed much common sense or any ability to plan ahead. Welcome to The Ahmad Rahami Amateur Hour.

He had been to Afghanistan and Pakistan a number of times, and was subject to intensive questioning by American authorities, but always managed to persuade investigators that he was visiting family members. So far, I haven't seen hard evidence that he was radicalized during these trips, although regular patrons of the family's restaurant have said that he became more devout after his last trip to Afghanistan.

ISIS, for its part, has not claimed credit for -- or solidarity with -- these bombing attacks. They did so in the Minnesota stabbing case.

All in all, it's easy to fall in line with the "lone nut" theory. However...

Rachel Maddow noted something odd about the explosives: They were all constructed differently. The unexploded pressure cooker bomb found on 27th street was made with HMTD -- hexamethylene triperoxide diamine. The one that did go off on 23rd street used Tannerite, a combo of ammonia nitrate and aluminum powder. The New Jersey devices were standard pipe bombs made with black powder in one instance and with HMTD in another.

Isn't it rather odd for one mad bomber to be so experimental?

Not only that. I saw a CNN segment yesterday which claimed that the police have a surveillance tape, not yet released to the public, which shows Rahami dragging a duffel bag containing the pressure cooker to the spot where the device was found. (See here.) But: After Rahami leaves, two other men show up, remove the pressure cooker (adorned with duct tape, wiring and cell phone) and abscond with the bag, leaving the device on the ground.


The unpleasantness in Boston taught us all about the unorthodox uses to which pressure cookers can be put. The mere sight of such a thing should have frightened the bejeebus out of those two guys. Yet we are to believe that they simply made off with the carrying case -- "Free duffel bag! AWRIGHT!" -- and went merrily on their way.

On the other hand, if we presume that those two guys were fellow terrorists, the story still doesn't make any sense. Why not leave the bomb in the bag?

At some point before Rahami's capture, an "unimpeachable source" told Geraldo Rivera that five Afghans had been arrested. The same story appeared in the NY Post. A simple mistake? Possibly. Where's the follow-up story? So far, I've yet to see one.

Dear reader, if you have an explanatory scenario for this madness, I am all attention. Normally, I'd check out what folks are saying on Reddit, but who wants to wade through the inevitable river of anti-Clinton conspiracy theories?

We must note that -- at this writing -- Rahami has confessed to nothing. I suppose that, with sufficient imagination, one could construct a scenario in which a convenient patsy was subjected to a particularly elaborate frame. (I know, I know: Unlikely. You can take the blogger out of Hollywood, but you can't take the Hollywood out of the blogger.)

Added note: Donald Trump is incensed that Rahami (an American citizen) will receive the services of a lawyer. It seems that the Trumpster Fire wants to do away with the 6th Amendment. I've long suspected that the Second Amendment was the only part of the Constitution that right-wingers know about or care about.
I seriously doubt Trump knows or cares about any of the amendments, which conservatives will discover to their horror if he gets elected. Of course, I imagine congress will stonewall Trump at every turn, since both Republicans and Democrats will be against most of what he tries to do. The same could happen to Clinton, though, I suppose, as the Republicans will likely subject her to the same treatment (or worse) they gave Obama. We'll see.

As to the bombings, I don't really know anymore than you do. Right now, it does sound like amateur hour and a guy that was a little too bent out of shape. We'll need more info to really form a different opinion, at this point.
Donald Trump is incensed that Rahami (an American citizen) will receive the services of a lawyer.

At least he wasn't summarily executed without benefit of trial like al-Awlaki (or, for that matter, without ever having been charged with anything like al-Awlaki's son). They were American citizens, too.
The five arrested were the bomber's extended family. The cops knew who they were looking for and stopped the car in hopes he would be with them. No conspiracy here. As for the duffle bag, this should be further evidence that people are incredibly stupid as the most likely explanation is some idiots stole the bag. The same thing happened to the device near the NJ train station which was discovered, and almost detonated, by a homeless guy who wisely told the cops.
Prop, I have no doubt that Trump will do such a things a LOT.

But you know that my personal theory of Awlaki is that he was always an American agent-in-place and that his killing (along with that of his son) were fakes designed to cover his exfiltration. If you look up my earlier posts, you'll see that there is some evidence for this.

There I go, sounding like Alex Jones again. Someone slap me out of it!
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