Lessons from the Ft. Dix Terrorist Plotters

Good article about the Ft. Dix terrorist plotters: the challenges of going after terrorism more proactively, and the risks of using informants.

I wrote about some of these issues here.

Posted on January 4, 2008 at 6:53 AM • 16 Comments

Comments

AnonymousJanuary 4, 2008 10:44 AM

I can't help but feel that this is the new version of Driving While Black. Playing paintball is construed as terrorist training now? Saying "allah akbar" is enough to brand you as a muslim fundamentalist? Geez...

It'll be interesting to see what the trial will actually be like - and what the jury will be like. People have complained in the past about the tendency of all-white juries to indict black folks on evidence that's flimsy at best; I wonder if there'll be any muslims on the jury now, or whether it'll all be WASPs.

derfJanuary 4, 2008 10:59 AM

Sounds like this is just another indictment of our Immigration and Border police enforcement (or lack thereof).

AnonymousJanuary 4, 2008 11:04 AM

Worse -- not only does saying "Allah Akbar" label you as a Muslim (probably true and not a problem) and a Fundamentalist (possibly true and also not a problem), it now also screams TERRORIST! to the fearful.

Or have we already convicted everyone that adheres to that specific religion of being an Enemy of the State?

elizillaJanuary 4, 2008 11:13 AM

Sorry to interrupt the Ft Dix thread, but I wanted to ask if you'd seen the news that the Paris-Dakar Rally (which was due to start tomorrow) has been canceled due to concerns over terrorism. Here's their announcement:

http://www.dakar.com/indexus.html

This event has a huge following in Europe; its cancellation is going to make a lot of headlines over there. So I'm curious to hear your take on this.

RoyJanuary 4, 2008 11:37 AM

This is an old game, which the FBI has been using since Hoover's days. The FBI organizes and runs a group of targeted people through its own agent. The targets are known to the FBI as all-talk-but-no-action feckless losers. Their agent arranges to meet them, befriend them, introduce them to each other, whip up the rhetoric, stir up the emotions, organize them into a group -- a club, not a cell -- and then plays with their revenge fantasies to have them agree to big pipedreams -- for the sake of the hidden recording equipment. He will supply everything for everyone, since the only money behind any of this is the FBI's. His club wouldn't be bankable by actual terrorism moneymen. When the game has pretty well played itself out, the FBI will 'roll up a terrorist cell', arresting everyone and taking their story to the media for big splashy coverage. There will be a show trial and a mountain of molehillish evidence.

The FBI cannot infiltrate an actual cell. Nobody can. Nobody in an existing cell can be replaced by an infiltrator without someone noticing, and there are no open positions in a cell. That's what makes a cell impenetrable. It's designed to be that way.

Tangerine BlueJanuary 4, 2008 12:19 PM

> The FBI cannot infiltrate an actual
> cell. Nobody can.

Whoever belongs to the cell has managed the feat.

Bryan FeirJanuary 4, 2008 1:15 PM

@Tangerine Blue:

I believe Roy's point is that the cell is formed with specific members, and not changed thereafter. Anybody who belongs to the cell hasn't ‘infiltrated’ the cell, they've been there from the beginning.

Really, the point of such a cell is to be independent, and sufficiently disconnected from any larger organization that if anybody gets caught, the damage is limited to that cell alone.

Tangerine BlueJanuary 4, 2008 1:56 PM

Well, in this case, it started with three brothers, then an FBI informant who whipped up a little action, then the group brought in a grocery clerk and pizza delivery guy.

So this particular group didn't go from zero to six instantaneously. I suspect most don't.

AnonymousJanuary 4, 2008 3:11 PM

The point is they weren't a terrorist cell. They were just some guys whipped into action by an informant who needed to give the Feds a case to make some cash and get some legal charges removed (pretty much all informants fit into that category).

It's pretty sad, really. A person being tortured will tell you what you want to hear, regardless of whether it's true or not. An informant will help you drum up charges against other people whether they are true or not, because they're generally scum who would be in prison otherwise. Yet both of those methods are treated as legitimate tactics in the War on Terror.

xfJanuary 4, 2008 5:06 PM

@anonymous 11:04: half the Republican party would outlaw being Mormon if they could.

AnonymousJanuary 4, 2008 5:50 PM

"Gag order raises questions in Liberty City terror retrial", by Vanessa Blum, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 3 Jan 2008
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/miami/...

U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard has imposed a "sweeping gag order" which extends not only to the one defendant who was acquitted in the first trial, but also to his lawyers, and to his wife.

Quoting directly from the article:

"'This is supposed to be America,' [one Miami criminal defense attorney] said. 'Once you're acquitted, it seems to me you should be able to stand on top of the tallest building and scream it.'

"[...]

"Jamin Raskin, a law professor who teaches First Amendment issues at American University in Washington, D.C., said a gag order extending to the wife of an acquitted defendant might go too far.

"'That seems to tug very strongly against First Amendment principles,' Raskin said."

The lesson from the terrorist show trials? This isn't your father's America. But it might be your mother-in-law's Soviet Russia.

jack mormonJanuary 4, 2008 6:42 PM

@xf:
> half the Republican party would
> outlaw being Mormon if they could.

Meanwhile, half the Mormons would outlaw the Democratic Party if they could.

legalizeJanuary 5, 2008 2:37 AM

legalize marijuana and religious zealots will be easier to spot, they'll all be sober and without smiles and doritos!

AlexJanuary 5, 2008 7:26 AM

I have a comment about the article. It names one guy as beeing from Egypt and the three brothers "from Yugoslavia". The brothers are actually muslims from Kosovo, which is a part of Serbia (former Yugoslavia) but is seeking independence. This wouldn't be a big deal if it wasn't for the fact that there is a war on the horizon between US supported (mainly muslim) Kosovo and Russia supported (mainly christian) Serbia. So it is actually important to note that these guys are from Kosovo and that they were planning a terrorist act against USA.

Jack G'tJanuary 5, 2008 3:01 PM

Overly aggressive prosecution teams hope that terms they'll be using, in this case “terror��?/“terrorist��?/“terrorism��? and “jihad,��? will carry such powerful connotations that jurors won't be meticulous in requiring evidence. Jury selection, by the defense especially, may be difficult.

Unless the accused are convicted based on evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, we should regard them as alleged plotters.

Max ManusJanuary 7, 2008 3:56 AM

Well. Being white, leftist and Scandinavian, perhaps I should be glad that Muslims are the new communists? Now I can play airsoft, bitch about politics and joke about violent responses to government policies without being prosecuted. As long as I stop hanging around with muslim friends, at least.

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