Yesterday evening Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg happily interrupted Sunday dinner hour to announce that the NYPD had apprehended a "lone wolf" terrorist who was, they say, getting ready to start bombing the city's mailboxes before moving onto cars and military officers. And while there certainly seems to be quite a bit of evidence laid out against 27-year-old Jose Pimentel, things like the fact that the FBI "declined to become involved with the case" because of "issues [it] had with it" already have some worried.
As the City paints it, Pimentel—"described as unemployed and a frequent marijuana smoker"—had converted to Islam in recent years, leading him to become estranged from his wife in Schenectady. When she wouldn't convert, domestic violence occurred and the naturalized Dominican Republic native moved back to the city, started a Jihadi website (trueislam1.com) and became fascinated with, and tried to join, Muslim militant Anwar al-Awlaki. Unable to connect with them, however, he allegedly decided to go it alone, slowly piecing together the needed parts to create a bomb from a recipe he saw in the Al Qaeda magazine, Inspire.
"Inspire him it did," Manhattan DA Cy Vance quipped yesterday. "The bomb Pimentel is charged with building came straight from the pages of Inspire magazine." The name of the article he is said to have gotten his recipe from? "How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom," officials said.
But while all of this (along with the surveillance photos of Pimentel working on one of the bombs in a police criminal informant's apartment and his reported confession to police) seem pretty open-and-shut, there are some curious facts too. Like the disinterest in the case (possibly on multiple occasions) by the FBI and the fact that the city decided to rush forward with the case without the Justice Department after two years of monitoring Pimentel. Kelly says that is just because Pimentel's mailbox bomb was so close to completion saying, "We had to act quickly yesterday because he was in fact putting this bomb together, drilling a hole, and it would have been not appropriate for us to let him walk out the door with the bomb."
Pimentel's lawyer, Joseph Zablocki, seems to think there are lots of potential holes in the city's case. "I don’t think this case is nearly as strong as the people believe," he said yesterday. "He has this very public online profile...This is not the way you go about committing a terrorist attack. I don’t know whether there’s an entrapment issue at this point—It’s not outside the realm of possibility that there are other people involved."
In another interview Zablocki put it this way: It was "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." The NYPD was first tipped off to Pimentel by police from upstate. For now, the alleged terrorist has been denied bail and remains in police custody.