NYC: Chelsea bombing suspect charged

Ahmad Rahami, the suspect in last week's bombings in New York and New Jersey, was charged (PDF) in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York Sept. 20. The charges include: Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Bombing a Place of Public Use, Destruction of Property by Means of Fire or Explosive, and Use of a Destructive Device During and in Furtherance of a Crime of Violence. Rahami is also facing similar charges (PDF) in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey. The Sept. 17 bombings injured 29 in New York; no one was injured in the New Jersey attack. Rahami was arrested two days later after sustaining injuries during a shootout with police in in Linden, NJ. The suspect also faces charges of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer stemming from the shootout.

The first bomb went off in Seaside Park, NJ, on the morning of Sept. 17. The location was serving as the venue for a Marine Corps charity race. That evening an explosion occurred in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, injuring 29 people. Other explosive devices were uncovered in the city over the weekend. Ahmad Rahami was identified as the suspect behind the bombings from surveillance video and fingerprinting. Rahami's father reported him in 2014  as a suspected terrorist.

From Jurist, Sept. 21. Used with permission.

Propaganda and the Chelsea blast

The Washington Post notes that a personal journal found with suspect Rahami contains words of admiration for al-Qaeda and ISIS. So, as in the Orlando and San Bernardino cases, this will be exploited by both ISIS and the counter-terrorism establishment to dubiously protray him as an ISIS agent...

The unprecedented cellphone alert issued by authorities in the hunt for the suspect is generating some controversy, reading simply: "WANTED: Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-yr-old male. See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen." (NYT, Slate) Not exactly a helpful response amid surging anti-Muslim hate crimes, and Donald Trump (of course) openly calling for "profiling" of Muslims (although he has tried to mince the matter after the fact in his usual hypocritical manner, as WaPo notes).

We must also ask again whose brilliant idea it was to label pipe-bombs "weapons of mass destruction." If there was ever a case of using the law as propaganda, there it is. WMD has traditionally applied to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, in contradistinction to "conventional" weapons. A pipe-bomb (at least one that uses no radiological materials) clearly falls in the latter category. Why is nobody else calling out this abuse of the language?