See Something, Say Something


One month ago, New York City and the NYPD experienced another terror attack. 

One month ago, New York City and the NYPD experienced another terror attack. 

It was not a horrific event like 9/11, but there are some injured police officers still recovering – as well as many unanswered questions.  The scenario at-present appears to be: Another terror attack, another failure by the FBI.  Which sounds very similar to: Another mass shooting, another failure by the FBI.  How many times can this agency fail before they are held accountable, or at least forced to explain these operational failures?

The FBI is always quick to claim credit for the good work that they do (and they do some great work), but when there is a failure, there’s just silence and stonewalling.  We have waited a full month hoping for some follow-up or some answers, but we are disappointed again.

Since 9/11 the mantra of counterterrorism has been, “if you see something, say something.”   And that is exactly what happened in this case.  So why didn’t it work?

The Facts

The FBI had a tip on Trevor Bickford, the young man who attacked three NYPD cops on New Year’s Eve with a machete.  A pretty good tip from none other than the perp’s mother. Audra Simpson called police on December 10th , expressing concern for her son.  Local cops called the FBI.  Bickford’s mother told the FBI that her son wanted to travel overseas to fight against the perceived oppression of Muslims. 

A few weeks later, the perp, Trevor Bickford travelled to New York City, and nearly brought the short careers of three of New York’s Finest to a sudden end.   The FBI had apparently interviewed this young man.  What steps were taken by the FBI after this interview?

You would think that there would be some serious questions raised by the paper of record, The New York Times.  Not really.  A few short and vague paragraphs on the incident and the perp.  Did you know he won an honorable mention award in an art competition in 2020.  Hard-hitting journalism indeed. 

The FBI and the DOJ have maintained strict silence on the case since their generic press release on January 10th.   We have been fed some bland platitudes such as this is a part of, “a very active investigation.”  The FBI even went so far as to instruct cops in Maine not to release the police report covering their role in the investigation. 

Questions Remain

Consider: The NY Post reported that the perp had stopped taking anti-depression medication.  That and the admission that he wanted to travel overseas to engage in killing the enemies of Islam seems like enough to declare that he is a danger to himself or others.  Had Bickford ever been taken to a psychiatric emergency room for an evaluation? 


It was reported that he left home several weeks ago with a debit or credit card.  Did investigators seek to get information on card usage?  How cooperative was his mother?  Did she get phone bills or were the debit/credit cards in her name? 

How about a little common sense?  Does an unemployed 19-year-old have the resources to travel to Afghanistan or Burma to take up arms in defense of Islam?  Isn’t it more likely that a mentally ill kid would just find a target of opportunity on a national stage close by? 

And all that being said: Wouldn’t it have made sense to know where that kid is on Christmas and New Year’s Eve? 

But in an effort to keep things pointed and simple, let’s boil this down to one simple query: How many agents were actually working on Saturday, January 31, in the Boston Field Office?  (The case, for some reason, was assigned to Boston rather than Maine, where Bickford lived).

One might as well ask how many agents work on any given Saturday.  If you are the agency responsible for keeping America safe from international terror threats, you may have to drop the banker’s hours.

Adding color to this: How many terrorism tips does the FBI in Maine get every year?  How many from a source as reliable as the perp’s mother?  What was done with this information other than a quick interview? 

Perhaps a lot was  done.  Perhaps very little.  I’m sure we will never know.  The FBI won’t tell, and the media won’t ask.  Nice arrangement.

These questions are not necessarily an accusation of incompetence against the FBI.  They may have gone above and beyond in their efforts regarding Bickford.  For all we know there was an FBI surveillance team following Bickford’s every move. 

But in light of the outcome… this seems unlikely.

If there was a Bureau team on Bickford, they sure don’t appear to have told the NYPD, who didn’t put out an alert for Bickford.  Nor, apparently, did anyone from the federal government alert NYPD to the Bickford threat as the department geared up its security for the most iconic event the city holds.   

We think the three injured cops and all of us have a right to know some details of the investigation.  We have given the FBI time to pull information together.  It’s past time we heard their side of the story. 

So that the next time you “see something and say something,” you’ll know the FBI takes your concerns seriously.  And actually does something.


By Christopher Flanagan

Photo By Anthony Quintano from Hillsborough, NJ, United States – Working New Years Eve Social Media for NBC, CC BY 2.0,


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