Whenever a disaster like the bombing at Monday's Boston Marathon occurs, members of the press try to be the first to report any “scoops” they can find regarding the catastrophe. However, news organizations are often so anxious to beat the 24/7 news cycle that they don't always check all the facts before posting a story.
One recent example of this problem is an article on the CNN website entitled “Boston Marathon bombs have hallmarks of 'lone wolf' devices, experts say,” in which an anonymous senior U.S. counter-terrorism investigator is quoted as saying that pressure cooker bombs have been “a signature of extreme right-wing individuals in the United States,” even though the report provides no evidence to support that claim.
Writers Tim Lister and Paul Cruickshank begin their story by stating that “the devices used in the Boston Marathon attack Monday are typical of the 'lone wolf,' the solo terrorist who builds a bomb on his own by following a widely available formula.”
“In this case, the formula seems very similar to one that al-Qaeda has recommended to its supporters around the world as both crudely effective and difficult to trace,” Lister and Cruickshank continued before veering off the rails:
But it is also a recipe that has been adopted by extreme right-wing individuals in the United States.
“Such improvised devices use readily available materials that cannot be easily traced,” the writers noted, adding that al-Qaeda has provided an online list of ingredients and methods of building an explosive device in its English-language magazine, Inspire.
After noting that variations of the al-Qaeda instructions appear all over the Internet, Lister and Cruickshank stated:
A senior U.S. counter-terrorism investigator told CNN that pressure cooker bombs have also been a signature of extreme right-wing individuals in the United States who he said tend to revel in building homemade bombs.
In an attempt to verify their claim, the reporters pointed to an unlikely incident.
“For example, the devices planted by Erich Rudolph at an Atlanta park during the 1996 Olympic Games were pipe bombs filled with gunpowder and nails to increase their lethality; it also had an alarm clock as a timing mechanism,” the reporters stated.
“Like the bombings in Boston, those devices were concealed in a backpack, according to a Department of Homeland Security report detailing the 1996 attack,” they noted.
However, as Lee Stranahan of Breitbart.com stated, the claim in the previous paragraph dealt with pressure cooker bombs as a signature of right-wing extremists, not the use of pipe bombs or the more general use of a timer or a backpack.
In fact, the article contains no instances of any right-wing Americans using such devices, which invalidates the writers' claim that pressure cooker bombs are a “signature” weapon for extremists in that group.
Instead, Lister and Cruickshank pointed to two “lone wolves” who used pressure cookers in their terrorist attacks.
Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad tried to detonate a vehicle bomb in Times Square in 2010 that included "a pressure cooker containing approximately 120 firecrackers," according to the Department of Homeland Security bulletin on the incident.
Another “lone wolf,” Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, flew to Sweden from England. While there, he built a bomb using ingredients he was able to purchase locally, including pressure cookers, fireworks, explosive chemicals, nails and ball bearings. Abdulwahab died when he tried to detonate the device in central Stockholm in December 2010.
“Once again,” Stranahan stated, “the media count on their busy and too-trusting readership not taking the tine to research claims they make.”
While it's certainly possible that anyone of any ideology could have used the pressure cooker method, for CNN to try to tie in the "right wing" without any evidence and based on anonymous, unnamed sources without any independent factual attribution is shoddy, biased journalism.
Put another way, the CNN reporters “bombed” in their misguided attempt to smear conservatives by implying a connection between “right-wing extremists” and the truly terrorist al-Qaeda organization.
We can only hope that Congress will use the same strategy now being attempted to restrict gun rights and pass a law banning power cookers.