[Ppnews] Hyping Another Terrorist Threat

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon May 21 14:03:47 EDT 2007


May 21, 2007

Hyping Another Terrorist Threat

Much Ado About the Fort Dix Pizza Plot


To listen to government officials and the mainstream media, the six 
New Jersey men arrested for allegedly plotting an attack on the Fort 
Dix military base were well organized and nearly "ready to strike."

But like all of the government's claimed victories in "fighting 
terrorism," there are disturbing holes in the story that should raise 
questions about scapegoating and scaremongering.

The U.S. attorney's office in New Jersey announced May 8 that five 
men--Jordanian-born U.S. citizen Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer; 
Turkish-born legal U.S. resident Serdar Tatar; and brothers Dritan, 
Eljvir and Shain Duka, ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslavia 
who were reportedly in the U.S. illegally--had been charged with 
"plotting to kill as many soldiers as possible in an armed assault at 
the Fort Dix Army base."

A sixth defendant, Agron Abdullahu, a legal resident also from the 
former Yugoslavia, is charged with illegally holding weapons for the others.

The FBI says it learned of the supposed plot when the men went to a 
Circuit City store and asked a clerk to transfer a jihad training 
video of themselves onto a DVD. They were arrested after allegedly 
attempting to purchase weapons from an undercover FBI agent.

According to the government, the men had conducted surveillance on 
Fort Dix, obtained computerized ballistic simulations and stolen a 
map of Fort Dix from a pizza shop located near the base in order to 
help plan their attack.

But the extent of their supposed military-style "training" appears to 
be trips to a firing range in the Poconos and playing paintball in 
the woods. According to the Washington Post, the indictment against 
the men "indicates that the group had no rigorous military training 
and did not appear close to being able to pull off an attack."

Nor do court papers indicate that the suspects themselves were 
convinced of their own supposed plan. At one point, for example, they 
express doubt at the thought of obtaining automatic weapons--noting 
that they are, after all, illegal.

The media's reports on the arrests immediately deemed the six as 
"Muslim fanatics" and "Jersey jihadists." But some of the men were 
known to be not particularly religious. In fact, according to the New 
York Times, investigators have quietly admitted that "there is little 
indication that they were devout--or even practicing--Muslims."

Perhaps most troubling, however, is the FBI's use of two paid 
"informants" in the case. One of the informants, according to the 
Times, "railed against the United States, helped scout out military 
installations for attack, offered to introduce his comrades to an 
arms dealer and gave them a list of weapons he could procure, 
including machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades."

That begs the question: how far would the supposed "plot" have gone 
had the FBI not been there to push it forward?

In fact, in November, Tatar himself contacted police in Philadelphia, 
telling a sergeant he had been approached by a man who "pressured him 
to acquire maps of Fort Dix." He even told the sergeant he was 
worried that that "the incident was terrorist-related."

The Feds claim that Tatar was simply trying to throw off suspicion 
and determine if the first informer was a plant. But the fact that 
one of the defendants in a supposed terrorist cell actually called 
police to report possible terrorist activity raises serious questions 
about the truth of the government's claims.

* * *

Over-hyped declarations about terrorism prosecutions are nothing new 
for Bush administration. It has announced one high-profile terrorism 
case after another, but few have ever been substantiated, and many 
more have been riddled with racism, entrapment and abuses.

Last fall, for example, several men of Middle Eastern descent were 
arrested in separate incidents in Ohio and Michigan on terrorism 
charges. They had aroused suspicion by buying too many cell 
phones--and, in one case, taking pictures of a bridge. Charges were 
later quietly dropped, but not until after the government smeared the 
men in the media as potential terrorists.

A similar pattern has played out in the case of seven men of Haitian 
descent arrested in Florida last year on charges that they were 
plotting to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower.

Though the charges are still pending, the case against the men rests 
on little more than the fact that they allegedly gave an FBI 
informant lists of shoe sizes in order to purchase military boots for 
them. Even the FBI was forced to admit that the plan was more 
"aspirational than operational."

As a recent editorial in the Palm Beach Post commented, "[A]nyone 
heard lately about the so-called 'Miami 7'? The Justice Department 
with much ballyhoo last year claimed the five U.S. citizens, one 
legal permanent resident and one Haitian national had conspired with 
al-Qaeda 'to levy war against the United States'...But Justice may 
face an uphill climb to show how the men were anything other than 
poor, unsophisticated street vendors and easy dupes when the 
government's agent came casting suggestion."

Then there is so-called "dirty-bomber" Jose Padilla, who spent more 
than three years in solitary confinement in a military brig as an 
officially designated enemy combatant for allegedly plotting to take 
part in an al-Qaeda plot to detonate a radioactive bomb inside the U.S.

When the Bush administration suddenly announced in November 2005 that 
federal criminal charges had been filed against Padilla, the 
indictment made no mention of the dirty bomb plot or most of the 
other original charges.

Today, Padilla's lawyers say he has been so psychologically damaged 
by the physical and psychological abuse he suffered at the hands of 
the government that he can no longer participate in his own defense.

Likewise, former University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian 
remains in prison today despite the fact that a jury acquitted him of 
the most serious terrorism charges against him and deadlocked on 
several lesser counts.

To end his imprisonment and be reunited with his family, Al-Arian 
agreed to plead guilty to a single count of supporting the nonviolent 
activities of a Palestinian charity. Yet his release date has come 
and gone, and he remains behind bars--because federal prosecutors now 
claim he is a "material witness" to other trumped-up terrorism 
prosecutions, and want to force him to testify.

Despite government assertions, the truth is that Al-Arian has been 
prosecuted for his political beliefs and defense of Palestinian 
rights--not for any "terrorism."

* * *

A closer look at the government's own records show that the "war on 
terror" has yielded few convictions.

Late last year, a study by the Transactional Records Access 
Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University found that in the first 
eight months of 2006, the Justice Department prosecuted 46 
international terrorism cases--but declined to bring charges in 209 
cases that the FBI or other agencies had referred, frequently because 
of a lack of real evidence.

"It is clear that the prosecutors are deciding that a lot of the 
investigations being recommended do not cut the mustard and do not 
meet their standards," David Burnham, the co-director of TRAC, told 
the New York Times.

In all, the study found that in nearly 6,500 cases treated as 
"terrorism" investigations by the Justice Department since September 
11, only about one in five defendants have been convicted.

And the average sentence for those convicted in "international 
terrorism" cases was just 20 to 28 days, and many received no jail 
time at all, the study found. The reason: Many of these cases involve 
lesser charges like immigration violations or fraud.

In other words, the prosecutions that the government labels as being 
about "terrorism" are almost never actually about terrorism.

In fact, a February audit released by the Justice Department's 
inspector general found that the department usually "could not 
provide support for the numbers reported or could not identify the 
terrorism link used to classify statistics as terrorism-related."

Convictions for immigration violations, marriage fraud and drug 
trafficking were counted as "terrorism convictions" by the Justice 
Department. Such cases included: charges brought against a 
marriage-broker for being paid to arrange six fraudulent marriages 
between Tunisians and U.S. citizens; the prosecution of a Mexican 
citizen who falsely identified himself as another person in a 
passport application; and the case of a suspect charged with dealing 
firearms without a license.

As one anonymous former prosecutor recently told Truthout.org's 
William Fisher, "U.S. attorneys are well aware of their bosses' 
priorities. Since 9/11, all of them have been under pressure to bring 
terrorism prosecutions.

"In many cases, that has led them and their superiors, as well as 
prominent politicians, to call high-profile press conferences where 
they announce terrorism charges against people, but when they show up 
in court, there are no actual terrorism charges."

Nicole Colson writes for the <http://www.socialistworker.org/>Socialist Worker.

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