2:37 pm Jul. 10, 2012
ProPublica's Justin Elliott took a look at the often-cited claim that there have been 14 foiled or failed terrorist attacks in New York City on Michael Bloomberg and Ray Kelly's watch, and concluded that the number is too high.
From Elliott's article:
A review of the list shows a much more complicated reality — that the 14 figure overstates both the number of serious, developed terrorist plots against New York and exaggerates the NYPD's role in stopping attacks.
The list includes two and perhaps three clear-cut terrorist plots, including a failed attempt to bomb Times Square by a Pakistani-American in 2010 that the NYPD did not stop.
Of the 11 other cases, there are three in which government informants played a significant or dominant role (by, for example, providing money and fakes bombs to future defendants); four cases whose credibility or seriousness has been questioned by law enforcement officials, including episodes in which skeptical federal officials declined to bring charges; and another four cases in which an idea for a plot was abandoned or not pursued beyond discussion.
In addition, the NYPD itself does not appear to have played a major role in breaking up most of the alleged plots on the list. In several cases, it played no role at all.
Asked about the ProPublica report at a press conference today, the mayor said the number of terrorist plots could be as little as one or as many as 28.
The important thing, Bloomberg said is, "we haven't had one" successful attack.
The mayor went on to say ProPublica "can study anything they want," but that he doesn't know that there's any standard method for calculating the number of plots foiled.
Citing the 14 figure, the mayor said the number of frustrated plots could actually be "double or triple" that.
UPDATE: AP reporter Adam Goldman: "mayor says no method for counting plots? His own NYPD says 14 and emails reporters with list."
UPDATE: Here's the mayor's full answer to a question today about the administration's use of the 14-plot number: "Well, you know, you pose a question that there is no ways to prove one way or another. But let me point out to you, we haven't had one. Let's assume it's one they thwarted instead of 14. And it could very well be 28, because nobody really knows how many people. We have to be right 100 percent of the time. The terrorists only have to be right once, and you're dead. Now you want to make some noise about the study. They can study anything they want. I don't know how you'd prove it one way or another. But I could make as cogent an argument that there's double or triple the number that was stopped, we just don't know about it."