President Obama says: If you see something, say something.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says: If you say something, we'll prosecute you.
Talk about conflicting signals! Say something or don't say something? We can't do both.
That's how neighbors of the San Bernadino shooters felt. They wanted to say something, but were afraid of having their motives questioned. Fear of being called bigots prevented them from confiding their concerns to the proper authorities.
Youtube is full of videos of security personnel being chastised for doing their jobs.
For instance, a security guard confronts someone taking multiple photographs of a downtown skyscraper from various angles.
Maybe the person's just a tourist with an interest in urban architecture. Or maybe he's a member of a terrorist cell scouting out a bomb target. Can the guard assume that the activity he's witnessing is innocent? Does he dare investigate and risk becoming the heavy in a viral video that precipitates the loss of his job?
Maybe the person taking the photographs wasn't really scouting out a bomb target, but was just probing to see if he could take those pictures unchallenged. Or maybe the making and distribution of the video was the objective all along, to let security personnel everywhere know what might happen to them for being conscientious about their jobs.
When everyone's cowed, when everyone's afraid to say something, it's open season for terrorists.
Clock Boy Ahmed Mohamed fits the pattern. Did he want to see if he could get away with bringing a bomb-like object to school? Did he want to precipitate a confrontation that would discourage school officials from responding prudently to perceived dangers?
Did his family need a pretext for the multimillion-dollar suit that their attorney has now threatened to file against the City of Irving and the Irving Independent School District?
Regardless of his motives, he and his family are playing a game that the rest of us can no longer afford to play.