Terrorism expert Kyle Shideler was at a counterterrorism conference in New York when a bomb went off in the Chelsea neighborhood of the city Saturday.
Beyond the irony of the time and location for such a gathering, Shideler told LifeZette he was struck by the number of participants who expressed shock over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s reluctance to label the bombing the work of terrorists.
“It’s interesting when you have de Blasio, who can admit that there was an explosive device and that it was planted by an intentional act but he won’t say it’s terrorism.”
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“It’s interesting when you have de Blasio, who can admit that there was an explosive device and that it was planted by an intentional act but he won’t say it’s terrorism,” said Shideler, director of threat information at the Center for Security Policy.
The explosion injured 29 people in the Manhattan neighborhood. Later, police discovered a second device four blocks away. Authorities said the device, a pressure cooker connected by wires to a cell phone, resembled the bomb used in the Boston Marathon explosion in 2013.
Still, “intentional act” was as far as the mayor would go on Saturday night.
“There is no specific and credible threat against New York City at this point in time from any terror organization,” he told reporters.
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Other elected officials were much quicker to voice the straightforward conclusion.
“A bomb exploding in New York is obviously an act of terrorism,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, according to The New York Times.
Newsday reported that Rep. Peter King, a Long Island Republican who chairs the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, discounted the possibility that the bomb was “small homemade, little device” because the blast broke windows far away from the Dumpster where it had been placed. On “Face the Nation,” he called the incident a “wake-up call to how vulnerable we all are” and added, “The threats are real and will continue.”
Shideler said common sense indicates that the the explosion was a terrorist act.
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“That’s a reasonable assumption. That’s where most reasonable people went,” he said. “For de Blasio to say it’s not rings a little bit tone deaf. And the question is why?”
De Blasio’s reluctance fits a pattern with other liberal politicians who’ve tried to downplay the terror threat posed by Islamic extremism. Shideler noted that President Obama labeled the 2009 Fort Hood shooing “workplace violence” and downplayed the Islamic extremist motivations of mass shootings in San Bernardino, California, last year and Orlando in June.
“We’ve seen this repeatedly by government officials the last eight years,” he said.
Shideler said public officials may be reluctant to acknowledge terrorism for fear that the public will blame for failing to stop it. He added that de Blasio faces a special problem because New York’s counterterrorism efforts have been “deeply wounded” by a series of court cases.
“De Blasio as mayor really has sided against the NYPD in favor of this grievance-mongering,” he said.
Shideler said the fact the police found two bombs — and a possible third device — strongly points to terrorism.
“That takes planning,” he said. ‘That takes coordination. That takes support.”
Shidler said it also is reasonable to investigate whether the New York bombing is tied to a pipe bomb that exploded earlier Saturday near a charity run in New Jersey, even though authorities have said they have no reason to believe the events are connected. He said there also could be a link to a Saturday stabbing at a Minnesota mall that injured nine people — an attack for which the Islamic State already has claimed credit.
Shidler said all three incidents — even if they turn out to be unrelated and not tied to a global terror network — point to to the dangers Americans face. He said undirected terrorist attacks are harder to stop but not always impossible. He noted that the FBI once had Orlando shooter Omar Mateen under surveillance but dropped the case because authorities uncovered no actionable evidence.
“Many of the lone wolf attacks have turned out to be known wolves,” he said.