"The ticking bomb" is a cliché in movies about
cops and spies and terrorists, but sometimes in real life, with real terrorists,
it's the real deal. And that's what the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the
New York City Police Department saw themselves up against in the case of Najibullah Zazi, the 24-year-old Afghan immigrant indicted Thursday for "conspiracy to use weapons of mass
destruction." Did the cops make mistakes? Some. Did Zazi find out the Feds
were on to him sooner than they wanted him to know? Yes. Did the bomb go off?
No. Or not yet, anyway.
To understand the case, which may have been the most dangerous Al
Qaeda-related plot to take place in the United States since 9/11, it helps to
understand how fast everything played out, and how little time the Feds and the
New York cops thought they had to begin with. And while there are many old feuds
between the Feds and the cops about turf and priorities, with a historical
reluctance to share information, that wasn't the problem this time. President
Barack Obama was coming to town-and so was this Afghan immigrant believed to
have been given explosives training by Qaeda-related groups in Pakistan. The
clock really was ticking.