The arrest of Daniel Patrick Boyd in Willow Spring, North Carolina, raises questions about when and on what grounds people should be arrested for planning terrorist attacks. According to The New York Times, he was charged with “stockpiling automatic weapons and traveling abroad numerous times to participate in jihadist movements.” The second part is horrific, and the first part seems, well, normal, at least in the parts of Kentucky and Illinois that I have visited over the past several months. In those places, quite a few Iraq veterans have stockpiled automatic weapons in their houses and apartments -- enough for World War III, in some cases, and nobody seems too bothered about it.
Staff Sgt. Ryan D. Maseth was taking a shower in the barracks of a military installation in Iraq last year when he was jolted with electricity and died; the Houston-based military contractor KBR had installed the pumps and water tanks for the shower, and the Defense Department’s inspector general report recently found that the contractor -- as well as the military -- had exposed the soldier to “unacceptable risk,” reports the Associated Press.
These days, John C. Yoo, the author of the Justice Department torture memos, is traveling around the country and giving talks in order to defend his work for the Bush administration, as The Washington Postreports. At the same time, prisoners at Guantanamo are waiting for news on their situation.
An odd and disturbing tale of a man who was drawn into the terrorist network appears in The New York Times, raising questions about U.S. intelligence gathering. Bryant Neal Vinas went from Long Island to Pakistan in search of a wife, according to the account, and along the way received al-Qaeda training. (Meanwhile, some experts believe that Osama bin Laden has taken another wife – this time in the area where he lives, in order, perhaps to strengthen ties to the community where he is hiding out. He also has a wife in Yeman, a counterterrorism expert tells me, and he visits her occasionally.)
We know that drones kill, but we don’t really know if they kill the right people, or at least we don’t know how often.
The Pentagon has been stingy with information on the accuracy of the drones. Counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen and Center for a New American Security fellow Andrew Exum called for a reduction in these attacks, explaining in a New York Times op-ed that they are not nearly as good at killing high-level al-Qaeda leaders as military experts claim, but Defense Department officials still have not provided much more information on why we should continue to use them at the current levels.