"Below (at National Review Online) , Rich wrote, “. . . an otherwise unimpressive terrorist, with some ‘luck,’ can still be deadly; Richard Reid, for instance, came very close to blowing up an air-liner mid-air.” I was reminded of something Michael Chertoff told me, when he was homeland-security secretary. This was in 2006. I quote from our interview (full piece, here):
"Also, says Chertoff, the papers are full of hapless-looking arrestees. They have families; they seem disoriented, pathetic. Remember the shoe bomber [Reid]? He looked like a homeless guy. The subtext is, “These guys aren’t very smart — how can they really be dangerous?” But, says Chertoff, “I spent a lot of years as a prosecutor,” working on organized-crime cases. “You don’t have to be smart to be a killer. Most of the killers we caught were pretty stupid.”Nor does it take a lot of brains to detonate a bomb. But what these killers and terrorists have in common is “a psychopathic remorselessness.” They don’t look like James Bond, or like Carlos the Jackal, when he’s portrayed at his most glamorous. They look more like the shoe bomber. But that doesn’t mean they can’t kill hundreds or thousands of people at a stroke.
"When terrorists fail in their work, they’re just schlubs, to be pitied, more than anything. The second they succeed — they’re monsters. But they are the same people, really."