[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
By NICOLE COLSON
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
"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.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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