Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Homegrown Terrorism: Dumb and Dumber

CAMDEN, New Jersey (Reuters) - Five Muslim men accused of planning an attack on a U.S. army base had no intention of following through even though they shared Muslim anger toward America after September 11, defense attorneys said on Tuesday.

The men, all born outside the United States, plotted but did not execute an attack on Fort Dix in New Jersey and discussed attacks on other installations including Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and the U.S. Coast Guard in Philadelphia, prosecutors say.

They were arrested in May 2007 and face life in prison if convicted....


This group is typical of the "homegrown terrorist" threat which I examine at length in Securing the City. One of the great common traits among such plotters is their stunning stupidity, which is then exploited by undercover officers or confidential informants who may act as facilitators, organizers, even "spiritual sanctioners," in the jargon of the NYPD's extensive report on "Radicalization in the West." (pdf)

When the members of such cells come to trial, they typically claim not only that they were entrapped but, inevitably and not without cause, they plead ignorance. Unfortunately, stupid people kill people, too. Several of the World Trade Center bombers in 1993 were pretty dim bulbs, and one, Mohammed Salameh who tried to get back the deposit on the rental truck he blew up, was moronic. But six people died, many more might have been killed, and the event set off a chain of events and created a web of connections that culminated in the disastrous second attack of 9/11.

In fact, the greatest danger is that a "homegrown" collection of homicidal dimwits will be missed by the cops, or not taken seriously, then hook up with someone much brighter who knows how to organize them and exploit them. In the 1993 plot, that role was played for a while by an FBI informant, but when the feds got bored with his stories and dropped him from the payroll, the cell managed to reach out to ... Ramzi Yousef, a true terrorist mastermind, and the nephew of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the brains behind 9/11.

The Fort Dix case, fortunately, was broken by a clerk at Circuit City. This is from the original complaint, the full text of which can be found as a pdf at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nj/press/files/pdffiles/DukaDritanComplaint.pdf :

1. On or about January 31, 2006, a representative of a retail store informed officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) that an individual had brought a video to their store to be duplicated into a digital video disk (“DVD”). That DVD depicted conduct – recorded as having occurred on January 3, 2006 – that the store representative described as disturbing. FBI agents reviewed the DVD in question. The DVD depicted 10 young men who appeared to be in their early twenties
shooting assault weapons at a firing range in a militia-like
style while calling for jihad and shouting in Arabic “Allah Akbar” (“God is Great”). The FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force (“JTTF”) immediately commenced an investigation into the activities of the men depicted in the DVD.
2. The FBI identified the 10 men depicted in the DVD, six of whom are: MOHAMAD SHNEWER, DRITAN DUKA, a/k/a “Distan Duka,” a/k/a “Anthony Duka,” a/k/a “Tony Duka,” ELJVIR DUKA, a/k/a “Elvis Duka,” a/k/a “Sulayman,” SHAIN DUKA, SERDAR TATAR, and AGRON ABDULLAHU. Immigration and Customs Enforcement checks show that DRITAN DUKA, ELJVIR DUKA, and SHAIN DUKA are illegally residing in the United States.
3. In or about March 2006, a cooperating witness (“CW-1") successfully
infiltrated this group ...
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