The $12,000 Times Square Bombing Attempt

June 18, 2010 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

The salient paragraph from the indictment of Faisal Shahzad in May’s attempted bombing in Times Square:

In December 2009, Shahzad received explosives training in Waziristan, Pakistan, from explosive trainers affiliated with Tehrik-e-Taliban, a militant extremist group based in Pakistan. On Feb. 25, 2010, Shahzad received approximately $5,000 in cash in Massachusetts sent from a co-conspirator (CC-1) in Pakistan whom Shahzad understood worked for Tehrik-e-Taliban. Approximately six weeks later, on April 10, 2010, Shahzad received an additional $7,000 in cash in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., which was also sent at CC-1′s direction.

So for $12,000, the Pakistani Taliban thought it could demonstrate global reach. And it clearly found a contractor in Shahzad. It’s tempting to say, in the wake of the plot’s failure, that the TTP got what it paid for. But the failure is less important than the demonstration that attempts at terrorism plotted halfway around the world are extraordinarily inexpensive, while the tools of counterterrorists — war, surveillance, homeland security — are stunningly costly.

On the other hand, the U.S. can now say that for $12,000 and the pricelessness of sustained ridicule, Shahzad’s life is over at 30. Two of the ten counts in his indictment carry charges of life in prison. It’s notable that so far, al-Qaeda and its allies have yet to find an American Muslim who’s been willing to commit an act of suicide terrorism. Perhaps Shahzad’s indictment can have some prophylactic effect: You wanna be that guy?