Federal authorities take terrorism cases pretty seriously, even when those plots are pretty far fetched. So when the FBI declines to take a case handed to them on a platter by local authorities — on multiple occasions — it suggests something isn’t quite right.
Sources familiar with the case against Jose Pimentel — accused of planning an attack with pipe bombs — told TPM Sunday night that federal law enforcement declined several times to take the case out of local authorities’ hands. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal also report that the FBI passed because of issues with the case, setting up the rare occurrence of a local district attorney handling a terrorism prosecution case.
At a press conference at City Hall on Sunday night — featuring a video of police blowing up a car to show television viewers what could have happened — NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly suggested that the Justice Department was aware of the case. Despite the fact that his investigators had been on Pimentel for two years, he said they had to act without the feds because the case, involving a bomb constructed out of a clock, elbow piping and Christmas lights game provided by the NYPD’s source, came together quickly at the end.
“We had to act quickly yesterday because he was in fact putting this bomb together, drilling a hole, and it would have been not appropriate for us to let him walk out the door with the bomb,” Kelly said.
Pimentel’s attorney Joseph Zablocki told CBS that he doesn’t think the case “is nearly as strong as the people believe.”
“He has this very public online profile. … This is not the way you go about committing a terrorist attack, Zablocki said. “I don’t know whether there’s an entrapment issue at this point. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that there are other people involved.”
Another oddity about New York’s handling of the case: while Pimentel was arrested on Saturday afternoon, they didn’t announce his arrest until Sunday night — even though authorities said he was a lone wolf and there weren’t any others involved in the case that would have justified sitting on it for over 24 hours.
Late update: A law enforcement official told Tom Hays of the Associated Press that after reviewing the evidence, the FBI found Pimentel did not have the “predisposition or the ability” to carry out the terror plot.