It’s too soon to say who is responsible for the fizzled car bomb that led to the evacuation of Times Square in New York City last weekend. But it’s not too soon to be skeptical of Pakistani Taliban claims that it engineered the attack from half a world away.

Police have released no information indicating that this was anything beyond the reach of anyone living in this country, and there was nothing about the design of the bomb — made of readily available and legal ingredients — to indicate a level of sophistication that would have required professional guidance.

This could have been the work of a single person who is hiding from the law, and the Taliban used the silence as an opportunity to jump on the Internet and claim credit. Let’s not be too quick to give it to them.

The Taliban has falsely taken credit for other acts of violence before. When a Vietnamese-American went on a shooting rampage in a New York immigration center last year, the Taliban claimed credit. A suicide note later revealed that the killer was protesting his treatment by New York police.

Terrorism is the strategy of scaring others into doing what you want. The Taliban gains stature if we think they are capable of launching such an attack, whether they did it or not. And the fact that they are on the defensive in their own country makes a foreign operation less likely.

Which is not to say that we have nothing to fear from international groups, but that they are dangerous in ways different from the hijackers who perpetrated the 9/11 disaster.

The most pressing threat posed by groups like the Taliban and al-Qaida is their ability to communicate and influence people in our country who would like to carry out their aims and can do it without material support.

We shouldn’t take too much comfort from the fact that the Times Square bomb didn’t go off.

As a New York Police Department anti-terrorist expert noted, people learn from mistakes and the next bomb could be better built.

The attempt is a reminder that busy places full of people — especially in New York — are vulnerable spots in a free society.

It will take some time to determine who was behind this one, but the investigation will make law enforcement better able to stop the next attack.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.