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Tilting at Windmills

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May 21, 2009

THWARTED TERROR PLOT IN NYC.... Following up on an overnight item, reports this morning suggest the suspected domestic terrorists arrested in New York last night weren't especially close to executing the plot, but it's nevertheless a heartening success story on U.S. counter-terrorism efforts.

The FBI and NYPD busted a four-man homegrown terror cell Wednesday night that was plotting to blow up two Bronx synagogues while simultaneously shooting a plane out of the sky, sources told the Daily News.

The idea was to create a "fireball that would make the country gasp," one law enforcement said.

Little did they know the plastic explosives packed into their car bombs and the plane-downing Stinger missile in their backseat were all phony -- supplied by undercover agents posing as Pakistani militants linked to Al Qaeda.

The plan was hatched by four men -- three Americans and one Haitian immigrant -- most of whom are apparently jailhouse converts to a radical strain of Islam. Their plot included car bombs outside two NYC temples and an attack at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, Orange County, where the would-be terrorists apparently wanted to shoot down a cargo plane headed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Thanks to the efforts on the FBI and the NYPD, these radicals were never able to procure actual weapons. For all the rhetoric from the right about why U.S. officials shouldn't look at counter-terrorism as a law-enforcement/intelligence-gathering matter, success stories like this one help prove otherwise.

It's also worth remembering what prompted the year-long investigation in the first place: "[A]n informant connected to a mosque in Newburgh said he knew men who wanted to buy explosives."

The more Muslim Americans feel comfortable reaching out to law enforcement officials, letting them know about suspicious activities, the better. The more Muslim Americans feel alienated and unduly profiled, the less likely they are to come forward with information like this.

What's more, as Hilzoy noted overnight, the terrorist suspects are being held on U.S. soil, will face charges in U.S. courts, and if convicted, will be locked up in U.S. prisons. I look forward to lawmakers -- apparently from both parties -- explaining to us why this is a bad thing.

Steve Benen 10:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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Comments

Congratulations on a fine collaborative law enforcement effort! Well done to all involved.

Posted by: shortstop on May 21, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, these people are just petty criminals. They are not, NOT real enemy-combatant-fire-breathing terrorists like the ones at Gitmo. Geez.

Posted by: Tea Bagger Jones on May 21, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

It's okay to incarcerate them here because these are not the same sort of terrorists whose super powers will enable them to escape from the prisons that no one else has escaped from.

Posted by: Dennis-SGMM on May 21, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

They can't be real terrorists because they were stopped by Law Enforcement! They only way we can stop this kind of terrorism is to invade Haiti.

Posted by: martin on May 21, 2009 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

And they caught them by using tried and true law enforcement methods. That makes about four more terrorists caught that way than by the NSA's high tech surveillance.

Posted by: Dennis-SGMM on May 21, 2009 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

It is obvious that these terrorists, like all terrorists, should not be imprisoned on American soil in American jails. We should also move murders, rapists, and all violent felons to prisons overseas.

American prisons must be reserved for real criminals - hardcore marijuana smokers!

Posted by: SadOldVet on May 21, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Any word on how many times they had to waterboard the informant?

Posted by: terry on May 21, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Sadly, conservatives will pick up on this...

"...most of whom are apparently jailhouse converts to a radical strain of Islam."

...and use it to further their current mantra of keeping Gitmo detainees out of the country.

Posted by: TonyB on May 21, 2009 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

please note, too, WHY these men engage in a terrorist plot to kill Americans:

"The four men arrested are all Muslim, a law enforcement official said. Mr. Cromitie, whose parents had lived in Afghanistan before his birth, had told the informant that he was upset about the war in Afghanistan and that that he wanted to do “something to America.”"

Congratulations Mssrs. Bush and Cheney. Heck-of-a-job keeping America safe.

Posted by: fromer on May 21, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

he was upset about the war in Afghanistan and that that he wanted to do “something to America.”"


I thought we were fighting them over there so we wouldn't have to fight them over here.

Posted by: martin on May 21, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, your last paragraph is well said. After all, prior to 9/11, the last terrorist attack on US soil occurred in OK City. McVeigh was captured, Miranda-ized, tried, convicted and executed by our US judicial and constitutional processes (also by a female Democrat AG, but I digress...). This historical fact and occurance has been conveinently overlooked or ignored, but its quite telling.

Posted by: dcrolg on May 21, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK
. . . jailhouse converts to a radical strain of Islam

Obviously those superhero powers possessed by the Gitmo detainees include radicalizing fellow inmates in prisons they haven't even been transferred to yet.

Posted by: noncarborundum on May 21, 2009 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

The real question, of course, is who we had to torture in order to bust this plot.

Posted by: Gregory on May 21, 2009 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "Thanks to the efforts on the FBI and the NYPD, these radicals were never able to procure actual weapons."

As far as I can tell from the information presently available, there is no evidence that these men ever had any chance of "procuring actual weapons" (ie. high explosives), nor did the FBI and NYPD prevent them from doing so. On the contrary, the FBI and the NYPD used a paid informant to get the men to "procure" fake weapons, which were only made available to them by the FBI and the NYPD.

Pending new information, this has all the appearances of prior cases in which people who never would have progressed on their own beyond talk, were turned into a "terrorist threat" by the actions of law enforcement, and even then were never an actual threat because they never had access to any actual weapons.

And of course this case will get a lot more media attention than the cases of actual right-wing militia extremists who actually had built cyanide bombs and had warehouses full of chemical weapons and the materials for making more, which were discovered purely by accident while law enforcement was paying them no attention at all.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on May 21, 2009 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Congratulations of on disproving yourself within a 24 hour period, Steve!
Yesterday, Steve Benen wrote:

withing Specifically, Mueller raised the specter of terrorists of "radicalizing others." Presumably, the fear is, an al Qaeda member could start chatting up a serial killer, and then the terrorist's radical ideology might spread.

Now, I'll concede that I'm unfamiliar with the inner workings of a maximum-security detention facility. There may be practical difficulties in keeping specific prisoners isolated indefinitely.

But I'd like to hear more about this, because at first blush, the concern seems pretty unpersuasive.

Posted by: oh well on May 21, 2009 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

"...jailhouse converts..."

*dives under desk*

Posted by: ajw_93 on May 21, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks to the efforts on the FBI and the NYPD, these radicals were never able to procure actual weapons.

Hey! Their Second Amendment rights were violated!

Posted by: jonas on May 21, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

terry beat me to it. Beat Gregory to it, too.

WWJT

Posted by: Cal Gal on May 21, 2009 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

The same quote that Secular Animist addressed @11:56 jumped out at me, too. Where would those guys have been, had FBI and NYPD *not* provided them with the fake explosives? Where does a jailbird -- converted or not -- procure that kind of stuff? You don't just go to your nearest pharmacy and ask for ingredients; "I wanna construct me a bomb, ma'am"/. There's a long way between "I want something bad to happen to America" and actually being able to do it. I want something bad to happen to Cheney and a few other people but, what are my chances of realising that dream?

Posted by: exlibra on May 21, 2009 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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