At a hastily-assembled press conference Sunday night, Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly stated that arresting 27-year-old terror suspect Jose Pimentel was an urgent priority "before he could detonate a fully-operated bomb." But the FBI's refusal to take the case based on "holes" and entrapment issues as well as the revelations that Pimentel, a frequent marijuana smoker, had attempted to circumcise himself pose the salient question: was Pimentel ever a serious threat to society?
Sources close to the investigation told TPM and the New York Times that the "confidential informant" assisting the department in the case smoked marijuana with Pimentel, a detail that the prosecutor's office was unfamiliar with. The source also said that Pimentel attempted to perform a circumcision on himself, although "there are no specifics about when the incident happened."
Though Pimentel, a Muslim convert who was living with his uncle in Harlem, was caught assembling a pipe bomb, federal sources tell the Post that the FBI was skeptical that he could have created an explosive device without the help of an informant. One describes Pimentel as a "stoner" who "wasn't a real danger to anybody other than himself." The source says, "Would the [perp] have done this stuff but for the undercover being there?"
Shortly after Pimentel's arrest, a joint FBI-NYPD terrorism task force was invited to interview Pimentel and see the beginnings of the pipe bomb that he was allegedly constructing. Two sources close to the task force say "investigators wondered whether Mr. Pimentel had the even small amount of money or technical know-how necessary to produce a pipe bomb on his own, had he not received help from the informer."
Pimentel's Legal Aid lawyer (who is now asking the judge to find his client another attorney because Legal Aid is currently representing an informant in a different case) said yesterday that the case is "almost as if [Pimentel] was inviting the D.A.s office to come and investigate this case because he did not believe that there was anything occurring that was actually against the law." Indeed, according to the Post, Pimentel allegedly asked, "Am I going to get a desk-appearance ticket?" after being arrested. All off this appears to make Pimentel look less competent than the two men accused of planning to blow up a Manhattan synagogue, another case the feds declined to prosecute.
Despite the concerns of the federal government in pursuing the case against Pimentel, NYPD spokesperson Paul Browne tells the Times, “It sounds like some people speaking anonymously who are not particularly familiar with the case are trying to undermine it. The fact remains that the words and actions of the suspect speak for themselves.”