Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Chinese "terrorists" in Boston

Last week, news media reported that the FBI was seeking 12 illegal Chinese immigrants, who were supposedly going to set off a "dirty bomb" in Boston based on an "uncorroborated tip" they had received. Today, they announced that the whole thing was a false alarm, and that they (in cooperation with Mexican authorities) had arrested the source of the tip. There was some speculation that the tip came from a smuggler who was angry that he had not been paid for smuggling the Chinese nationals across the border.

That the FBI ever took this farfetched idea seriously boggles my imagination.

A terrorist needs three factors to be present for him to carry out an attack: means, motivation, and opportunity. In the case of a "dirty bomb", the "means" could translate into having access to nuclear material, explosive material, and the knowledge to execute the attack; and "opportunity" could be being physically present in the United States. But, what is missing is motivation. Why would a Chinese illegal immigrant want to randomly kill people here? Typically, these folks come to the United States so they can earn money to send home to their families, have no quarrel with the United States or its people, and generally prefer to keep a low profile and avoid conflict with law enforcement to avoid being sent back. Why, then, would a dozen of these people be involved with such a sinister plot? There is no reason.

Unfortunately, the FBI seems to have bought into this "political correctness" concept a bit too far. According to the politically correct mentality, all ethnic groups have equal propensity to become terrorists, and thus the concept of Chinese terrorists attacking Boston should be taken seriously. To think otherwise would be "racial profiling" and, according to the politically correct philosophy, should be unthinkable.

In reality, of course, this whole "politically correct" concept is just a fallacy. Chinese illegal immigrants (like Mexican illegal immigrants) are almost always here for financial reasons, and other than their illegal status here, are generally law-abiding people who would have no interest in launching terrorist attacks.

If the FBI is serious about catching real terrorists, they need to abandon this "politically correct" philosophy and start looking at whether a purported terrorist would have any real motivation to launch an attack. And, when they hear "uncorroborated tips" about Chinese terrorists, Mexican terrorists, Japanese terrorists, Brazilian terrorists, or "terrorists" from any other place that has no real quarrel with the United States, they should ask themselves whether a normal person from one of these places would have any motivation to randomly attack the United States. To do otherwise wastes the FBI's resources, distracts law enforcement from more credible threats, and unnecessarily panics the public.

The FBI should also go read the story about the "Boy who cried Wolf": if they keep crying "Wolf" over every farfetched concept they hear about (Chinese terrorists, lasers bringing down airplanes, etc.) the public will stop taking them seriously.