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Najibullah Zazi arrives at the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building in downtown Denver September 17, 2009. Zazi was questioned by FBI for suspected involvement in a terrorism plot involving peroxide-based explosives. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
In the previous administration, liberal critics of George W. Bush claimed that terror alerts and "plots" would be announced at politically convenient times. Indeed, while flacking his book, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge initially suggested that certain political considerations influenced the Bush team; he quickly backed away from his own scoop.
Well, given that, couldn't the revelation of the apparent terror plot that linked individuals in Denver and New York be seen a bit more skeptically? After all, just because the Obama administration downplays the phrase "war on terror," it doesn't mean certain alleged tactics of the previous administration couldn't be brought to bear to help convince a wary public that there are still dangers out there.
So, is the suggestion that this Denver-NYC plot is being ginned up because Obama's health-care policy is on shaky ground?
But consider the details: Afghanistan-born Najibullah Zazi is arrest in Denver and allegedly admitted to the FBI that he traveled to Pakistan, receiving explosives training from al Qaeda, comes at a very interesting time. In New York, Zazi's father and an associate are also in custody. Charges right now are limited to lying to federal investigators, pending more developments. However, it's clear that authorities believe there was an active plot that had serious aims:
Publicly, law enforcement officials have repeatedly said they are unaware of a specific time or target for any attacks. Privately, officials speaking on condition of anonymity said investigators have worried most about the possible use of backpack bombs on New York City trains, similar to attacks carried out in London and Madrid. The investigation was ongoing to determine Zazi's role and how many others may have been involved.
Backpacks and cell phones were seized last week from apartments in Queens where Zazi visited.
That Zazi and cohorts were discovered so close to the anniversary of 9/11 also raised numerous flags.
But that's not the only timing that is rather interesting.
Aside from health-care reform, what is the other big controversial issue facing the Obama administration? The war in Afghanistan. In just the last few days, General Stanley McChrystal's report on the war was leaked to the Washington Post. McChrystal is requesting as many as hundreds of thousands of more troops. Yet, there is growing resistance on Obama's left to an expansion of the war. Conservatives like George Will are openly balking.
So, coincidentally or not, up pops a homegrown terror plot -- that has links back to both Afghanistan and Pakistan. If this were the Bush administration, suspicious liberals -- and some in the media -- might think, "Hmmmm...."
Of course, the Zazi plot -- whatever it might have been -- is not necessarily going to inspire members of Congress to automatically give Barack Obama all the additional troops that he might request. However, it becomes one more data point to help support Obama's main contention that the central front of the war on terror is the Afghanistan-Pakistan nexus ("AfPak").
Coincidence or not, expect the Zazi arrest -- and whatever details are forthcoming -- to be prominently mentioned as the administration pushes to expand the U.S. presence in Afghanistan -- at which point the war truly will belong to Barack Obama.