NYPD's John Miller explains "the most difficult kind" of terrorist threat

NYPD's John Miller on bombings
NYPD's John Miller on bombings 07:54

NYPD officials may have thwarted other potential explosions by detaining bombing suspect Ahmad Rahami just two days after his alleged bombing spree in New York and New Jersey, but the NYPD deputy commissioner of intelligence and counter-terrorism warns this is an example of “the most difficult kind of threat.”

On “CBS This Morning” Thursday, John Miller – also a former CBS News senior correspondent – explained the difficulty of gathering intelligence on “lone wolf” terror attacks.

Terror threats in U.S. 01:48

“If we’re dealing with an organization like Al Qaeda, the network has several stops along the way that offer potential possibilities for intelligence collection,” Miller said. “When you’ve got one person at 1:30 in the morning in the glow of their laptop who’s getting inspiration from something they’re reading or watching online, that conspiracy forms somewhere between that computer screen and their brain – the opportunities to collect that intelligence are very limited.”

In fact, investigators are still trying to determine whether Rahami acted alone in the weekend bombing spree in New York and New Jersey, which involved ten explosive devices, raising questions about potential accomplices. Still, Miller said it is too early to know for sure whether he acted as part of a larger terrorist cell in the New York area.

“At this stage of the investigation, there is zero to indicate that, but that’s this stage of the investigation. We’re less than a week into this,” Miller said. “You’ve got to pull the string, look at the evidence and see where it takes you.”

One key piece of evidence authorities have is Rahami’s bloody-stained notebook, in which he references Abu Muhammad al-Adnani – ISIS’ second in command who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in August – and a variety of terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda and Boko Haram.

“It’s certainly telling when you’re trying to establish a terrorism charge,” Miller said.

As the investigation is still in its “critical stage,” Miller declined to reveal more details, including whether authorities have questioned the suspect – who is said to be in critical but stable condition after being wounded in a shootout with police.

Miller also emphasized the importance of finding the two menwho found a bag​ with an undetonated pressure cooker bomb, blocks from the site of the explosion in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. The men are not considered suspects, but they could be key witnesses in the investigation, and authorities want access to forensic evidence that could be obtained from the luggage they took after leaving the pressure cooker device on the sidewalk. 

“A, we need these two guys just to figure out who they are and how they encountered that bag. And B, we want the bag. It may have evidence, it may have explosive residue, it may have other forensics and it’s very valuable,” Miller said.