Friday, October 2, 2009
Crime happens when we least expect it. Criminal activity festers in places we can’t imagine and in the minds of those we least expect. We shouldn't be surprised when it's discovered.
The recent arrest of three seemingly low-key, nondescript men on charges of lying to federal agents about a plot to blow up American targets sounds like the stuff Hollywood makes movies about. But these arrests were all too real and should go to remind us that America’s fight against terrorism is far from over. The battlefield is worldwide.
These most recent suspects … all foreign-born Muslims, include a 24-year-old Denver airport shuttle driver, his father and an alleged accomplice in New York. They have not, of course, been found guilty of anything. But their case seems destined to go to trial.
FBI Agents on Watch
Before he stopped talking to the FBI, the suspected ring-leader, 24-year-old Najibullah Zazi, a native Afghani, allegedly told agents he received Al Qaeda weapons training in Pakistan last year. An FBI document claims Zazi’s laptop contained a recipe for making bombs and information about important New York-area targets like transportation hubs and sports and entertainment venues. They tied Zazi’s recent trip to New York (ominously on September 10th, the day before the nation marked the 9-11 anniversary) to his fingerprints on bomb-making ingredients found in apartments he visited in Queens. Media reports and FBI documents mentioned suspicions that Zazi planned to place bombs in rented vans or back packs. Authorities felt the plot had developed to include at least three separate teams of four men each preparing to carry out various U.S. attacks.
The round up of Zazi and his cohorts didn't happen in a vacuum. Every day in this country – as far removed as we are from the day the towers fell, the Pentagon was struck and the jetliner crashed into the ground in rural Pennsylvania – special government agents actively pursue leads to thwart more terror attacks on American soil. So far, they've done a hell of a job. Operatives within the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, your state, local police and other agencies know things about plots against our country that would curl your hair. They invisibly investigate countless cases we will never hear about, many times acting on tips from observant citizens.
This week in Illinois, an American ex-con who converted to Islam in prison was arrested on charges he tried to blow up the federal building in Springfield. Michael Finton, also known as Talib Islam, was unknowingly working with local and federal law enforcement agents as he chose his target. He faces life in prison.
Fountain Place: The Dallas Target
A day later, in Dallas, a Jordanian citizen was charged with trying to blow up a 60-story building with what he thought was an active car bomb. Actually, an FBI undercover agent posing as a fellow terrorist led 19-year-old Hosam Maher Husein Smadi to believe he had genuine explosives. The suspect reportedly idolized Osama bin Laden.
In May, New York authorities and the FBI arrested three U.S. citizens and a Haitian man on charges that they planned to bomb multiple synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down airplanes using surface-to-air missiles. In a meeting with a government informant, one of the suspects revealed his parents lived in Afghanistan, and he was angry about the U.S. war there. He said he an interest in “doing something to America.”
All this talk about suspected terror plots in New York, Dallas and Springfield, Ill., might seem far removed from where you live. But as we were all reminded on Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism that touches one American city touches us all.
All these years later, our leaders are still trying to figure out how to stop the terror at its source – Al Qaeda-sponsored training centers that pockmark the landscape in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We've spent billions of dollars, yet they survive. Why is that – are they smarter than us, or do we lack conviction and a definitive plan for their eradication?
I'll go with the latter. Our leaders can't seem to get it together to stop this monster of all crimes.
Generals on the front line say they need another 30,000 troops to mortally cripple Al Qaeda and install some sort of democracy in the region. The President has said he’s prepared to allocate about 17,000 more soldiers, although he’s now considering some alternatives. Many members of Congress seem focused only on blaming the past for the quagmire and offer no suggestions on going forward. Others on Capitol Hill support pulling out of the region right now, abandoning the mission altogether.
Democrats vs. Republicans, military leaders vs. civilian experts, soldier warriors vs. pacifists. America is strong enough and smart enough to figure it out. All we need is the right leadership.
So after an eight-year war, when do we begin to demand that?Tweet