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The Monitor's View

Citizenship 101: Times Square bomb and Gulf oil spill

The Times Square bomb and the Gulf oil spill show that government can't always protect America by itself. It needs the watchful and caring eyes of citizens.

By the Monitor's Editorial Board / May 4, 2010

Two alert street vendors in New York City’s Times Square and thousands of volunteers ready to counter the Gulf oil spill remind America that “government” sometimes needs a citizen assist to do its main job – protecting the nation.

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That, at least, holds true with threats as wide-reaching and unpredictable as terrorist attacks or an unprecedented leak from offshore oil drilling.

The Times Square case brings to mind the Christmas bomber, who tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet as it approached Detroit last year and who was subdued by passengers. Government officials did not head off the airline bomber, nor did they prevent the perpetrator(s) of the potential Times Square bomb – though police, firefighters, and bomb specialists did respond quickly, clearing the area for safety.

In just about two days a suspect has been arrested, Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized US citizen from Pakistan. He is believed to be the owner and driver of the Nissan Pathfinder loaded with explosives and left parked, with the engine running and hazard lights blinking, on 45th Street in Manhattan on Saturday evening.