That’s how the guys who were arrested in Miami last night sound. There is no indication they were in touch with al Qaeda, and Attorney General Gonzales says:
There is no immediate threat … part of the reason for that is because they didn’t have the materials they requested, they didn’t receive the weapons, at least we don’t know of.
In other words, the authorities were on to these guys early, they had informants talking to them, and they chose the right time to reel them in when, as Gonzales said, “We felt that the combination of the planning and the overt acts taken were sufficient to support this prosecution.”
This group sounds pretty incompetent, and they hadn’t made much progress toward waging the “full ground war” against the United States that they say they intended. In other words, these guys were never really a threat.
Which is exactly the way we want it. We want our law enforcement authorities to be all over would-be terrorists with every weapon at their command: surveillance, telephone and email intercepts, informants, monitoring of phone calls and banking records, you name it. We want the authorities to be so far ahead of would-be terrorists that the terrorists–even if they’re just goofballs, as this group may be–never have a chance. We want plots squashed before they get anywhere close to getting off the ground.
And that’s how it has been ever since September 11. Time after time, the authorites have rounded up terrorist cells, not in the nick of time as they were about to carry out an attack, but before their plans matured, at a moment chosen by us, not by them.
Which highlights how grotesquely irresponsible it is for the New York Times and other media outlets to tip terrorists off to one anti-terror technique after another.