THWARTING NEW BRAND OF TERROR
MONDAY, JUNE 5, 2006
It is to the resounding credit of the FBI that a plot hatched by seven men described as would-be "homegrown terrorists" was nipped in the bud so neatly that their plan to cause death and destruction "just as good or greater than 9/11" never posed an immediate threat.
According to the indictment by a grand jury in Miami, the seven men - five U.S. citizens and two Haitians, one a resident and the other an illegal immigrant - planned to blow up the tallest building in America, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the FBI offices in North Miami Beach and other federal buildings in Dade County, Florida. "Fortunately," said Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, "because of the fine work of law enforcement, these men were unable to advance their deadly plot beyond the initial planning phase." He noted that this is "a new brand of terrorism" and warned, "Today, terrorist threats may come from smaller, more loosely defined cells who are not affiliated with al-Qaida, but who are inspired by a violent jihadist message. And left unchecked, these homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like al-Qaida."
The response to this new brand of terrorism was described by Mr. Gonzalez as "prevention by prosecution." The plotters in the Liberty City section of Miami, were arrested before they were able to acquire the explosives and weapons they needed to carry out their insane jihad. An FBI informant the men assumed was an al-Qaida operative caught the plotters with a sting operation.
One terrorism expert suggested that there is a risk of undermining public confidence if suspects are depicted as dangerous terrorists but "look like Keystone Cops." In this case, law enforcement was so effective that the would-be terrorists appear less dangerous than they really were.
The indictment said the men pledged loyalty to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida in order to seek support from it to wage a "full ground war against the United States." They expressed their desire to "kill all the devils we can," pledging their terrorists attacks would be "just as good or greater than 9/11."
Home-grown terrorists have struck in Spain and Britain, killing hundreds of innocent people. They should not be underestimated. It is comforting to know that both in Canada and the United States, terrorist attacks have been prevented before they went beyond the planning stage. This must not lead to complacency.
It is generally accepted by students of al-Qaida and the new brand of terrorism inspired by bin-Laden that the aim of all these groups is to carry out an even greater atrocity in the United States than the attacks perpetrated on September 11, 2001. Apart from top-flight law enforcement the best protection against home-grown terrorists is an alert public.
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