We never met Jose Pimentel, recently removed from our shared neighborhood in upper Manhattan to a terrorist holding cell downtown. But we might have passed him on the street, up by the bodega, because he looks a lot like the other young men hanging out on the corners of Broadway with cellphones palmed, waiting, waiting, waiting for the unemployed Dominican version of Godot.
His saga started unfolding on TV Sunday night when Mayor Bloomberg, apparently interrupting an afternoon of antique-book collecting, clad in a Thanksgiving-orange cashmere sweater, took to the podium to announce that a "lone wolf" "home-grown" Islamist terrorist had been a mere hour away from finishing a pipe bomb with which he planned to start blowing up local Post Offices.
Gauging from the address of the apartment he shared with his mom, Pimentel would have had in sights our local post office at 158th Street, a dank, worm-colored fluorescent cave we've gotten to know much too well over the years, waiting for surly attendants to decide when the line of Dominican grandmothers on walkers and canes waiting for checks looked close enough to collapse for them to get back behind their bomb-proof plastic windows and start selling stamps.
Our initial reaction was: hey, why didn't the NYPD wait until Pimentel had tested his device on the post office at 158th Street?
(Note to NYPD: joke! Read on before putting my name on that list.)
Monday morning brought the predictable Fox news headline "Usama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki may be dead, but their message continues to inspire terror."
The police had been surveilling the 27-year-old "lone wolf" for the last two years, using wiretaps and informants, tracking his escalating radical Islamist ravings and waiting, waiting, waiting until he finally went to the Dollar Store and bought the makings of his pipe bomb.
Soon as he was arrested, though, like so many NY Post cover-worthy, home-grown terror cases in recent years, the plot thickened with stories of dubious informants behaving in ways that give public defenders excellent entrapment defenses. Today, TPM reports that an NYPD informant even smoked pot with Pimentel, apparently relaxing him enough to share his evil plans and talk about wanting to perform a self-circumcision to become more fully Muslim. All of which is on tape.
Then it emerged that the FBI was reportedly so unimpressed by Pimentel's threat level that they declined to join the city police in their investigation, let alone show up at the Sunday night press conference.
Which all begs the question: how much money might taxpayers have been saved with a referral to a mental health agency here? I can think of half a dozen other things the NYPD could be doing in Hamilton Heights on any given night than smoking dope with a self-circumciser.
Pimentel's arrest for planning to hit local post offices with pipe bombs is timely, though, since it coincides with the engineered implosion of not just one post office, but possibly the entire USPS, reeling from a slo-mo neutron bomb lobbed by the radical right.
Last night, with Pimentel safely in prison, community organizers and union leaders rallied in Harlem, trying to save one of the thousands of neighborhood and small town post offices scheduled for extinction thanks to a radically anti-government Congress. Conservatives hate the USPS because it employs a lot of federal workers, whom the radical business class deems akin to welfare recipients. So their minions in Congress passed a law in 2006 requiring the Post office to pay its retirees health benefits 75 years into the future. (Cue the video of chortling Grover Norquist-red-tie-wearing David-Brooks-look-alike GOP geeks here).
The Postal service will probably soon have to shutter 15,000 offices and lay off tens of thousands of workers, according to Postmaster Patrick Donohue speaking to Time. Donahue conceded those radical measures would save no more than 2 percent of the national deficit, but the USPS is always low-hanging fruit for the right. The latest payment on that massive, health plan payoff debt was due Nov. 18, two days before the 158th Street post office was saved from terrorist Jose Pimentel's dooby-ious terror pipe dream.
For more on our dying postal service, www.savethepostoffice.com.