All of this and more has once again put a spotlight on fears that Al Qaeda is successfully reaching out to Muslims resident in the West, training them in Pakistan, and sending them home to carry out terrorist attacks. The US and European governments have fretted for years that so-called homegrown terrorists, with passports and language skills that make it easier for them to get around, could be behind the next major terrorist attack in a New York or London.
Those concerns are reasonable, since the last major attack in the West – the bombing of the London subway system in July 2005 – was carried out by British Muslims who'd received training in Al Qaeda-connected camps in Pakistan's lawless border region.
But Pakistani-American Mr. Shahzad was captured after his incompetently constructed bomb failed to explode, and was fingered by a Times Square vendor (himself a Muslim) as he bungled his way to a life sentence in jail, much like the failed British "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid (Mr. Reid had sought to detonate a high explosive with a match, something that is practically impossible).
The arrests in France – it isn't yet clear if the men were allegedly planning attacks themselves or were simply in the arms smuggling business and had ties to militants – followed an arrest of a French-Algerian in Italy. The police there then shared what they learned from that suspect with the French authorities. And the drone strikes that killed the alleged German and British plotters in Pakistan followed the detention of another man by the authorities in Afghanistan.