Response to Times Square incident should be a source of national pride

This editorial appeared in Tuesday's San Jose Mercury News

The thwarted bomb attack on Times Square, chilling as it was, should also inspire some resurgence of national pride.

The vigilance of two street vendors prevented disaster, and the aggressive response of law enforcement led to the arrest of an American suspect who has apparently confessed. Pakistan, too, has detained several people who may have been involved in plotting the bombing — all within days of the suspicious SUV's appearance.

Sometimes it feels as if Americans are under siege with intractable problems that befuddle an ineffective government. But that is not the case here. The system worked.

U.S. counterterrorism officials have disrupted terrorists' ability to organize and execute even small-scale attacks, as shown by this case and the failed Christmas Day bombing. And in both instances, ordinary Americans provided a crucial first line of defense — as they must, since police can never be everywhere.

The swift investigation that led to Faisal Shahzad's dramatic arrest on a plane late Monday night was impressive and reassuring.

Redundancies in the system worked: Though Emirates Airlines says it alerted law enforcement Shahzad had bought a one-way ticket and paid with cash, and he had been added to the no-fly list a few hours earlier, he was still allowed to board. Customs agents, though, stopped the plane from taking off.

It's a fact of life that we will be the target of attacks. But we are not defenseless. Common sense and competence happily conspired to make that point this week.