Patterico's Pontifications

9/24/2009

Terror Suspect Indicted in New York (Updated)

Filed under: Terrorism — DRJ @ 12:57 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

Najibullah Zazi, the Denver-based Afghan detained last week in a terror investigation, has been indicted in New York and charged with conspiracy to use WMDs:

“The two-page indictment of Zazi — who appeared in a Denver court on Thursday — offers few details, but a separate document — a government motion seeking to deny bail — lays out evidence gathered by investigators.

The airport shuttle driver began plotting to “use one or more weapons of mass destruction” between Aug. 1, 2008, and September 2009 against the United States, the papers say.

The document says that on Sept. 6 and 7, Zazi tried to communicate with another individual “seeking to correct mixtures of ingredients to make explosives.”

“Each communication,” the papers say, was “more urgent than the last.”

On those days, Zazi rented a suite at a hotel in his hometown of Aurora, Colo., authorities charge. The room had a kitchen, and subsequent FBI testing for explosives and residue in the suite found the presence of residue in the vent above the stove.

In July and August, Zazi bought unusually large amounts of hydrogen peroxide and acetone — a solvent commonly found in nail polish remover — from beauty supply stores in the Denver metropolitan area, the document says. He searched the Internet for home improvement stores in Queens before driving a rental car for a two-day trip to the city, the document says.”

Zazi’s father and the imam of a New York City mosque also appeared in court on charges of lying to investigators about the terror plot. Counterterrorism experts say the plot may have been an effort to detonate homemade bombs in New York-area mass transit.

— DRJ

UPDATE: At NRO, Andy McCarthy discusses whether a turf war between the FBI and the NYPD “prematurely blew the investigation” so authorities had to arrest some suspects before all the participants were identified. If so, compare that to this Dallas report:

“Federal authorities arrested a 19-year-old Jordanian citizen whom they said placed an inactive car bomb today at Fountain Place, a 60-story skyscraper in downtown Dallas.
***
Authorities said that Smadi was under continuous FBI surveillance. Federal agents posed as members of an al-Qa’ida sleeper cell. Smadi, who was in the U.S. illegally, allegedly told them that he came to the country specifically to commit “Jihad for the sake of God.”

According to authorities, Smadi identified potential Dallas targets in June and allegedly scoped out Fountain Place in July. Authorities said that Smadi lived and worked in Italy, about 45 miles south of Dallas.

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert said city officials were notified of the impending arrest beforehand.

“We were clearly communicated to that there was not going to be a danger to anybody,” Leppert said. “There’s a good working relationship between the police and the FBI. This is an example of that.”

12 Responses to “Terror Suspect Indicted in New York (Updated)”

  1. Note that the law in question defines WMD’s down to include small “destructive devices”. Like a hand grenade or a soda bottle filled with homebrew explosives.

    Bill (0de294)

  2. I don’t think “incompetence” qualifies as a defense. He wanted to kill hundreds of people and likely would have killed tens. Now, what does the law call WMD? Does it really have to be a city-buster?

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  3. The allegations sound like they disrupted a plan to use homemade bombs. I don’t know how destructive they would be, but the danger is more than the power of bomb. Danger also comes from where and when a bomb is detonated.

    DRJ (b008f8)

  4. I seem to remember a guy in Oklahoma using a homemade bomb several years ago. As I recall it made a pretty big bang.

    Gesundheit (47b0b8)

  5. WMD evokes ‘Nuclear Biological Chemical’ category. I realize it’s possible to destroy a mass without using that kind of weapon, but it’s a term that is overused.

    It’s not a WMD to me if it has to be used in a specific place to trigger a lot of destruction. Then it’s just a well placed bomb. Bombs are scary too, but if this is an WMD to the MSM, then the same press that claimed Saddam didn’t have any are liars.

    Dustin (0bdb72)

  6. The NYPD blew the investigation by contacting a Muslim informer who tipped off the father and son. They may not have enough to get a conviction. Andy McCarthy has been on the case. This was a serious case and they may have blown it.

    A top player, Najibullah Zazi, is said to have driven for the better part of two days to get to New York City from Denver by the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, but discovered that he was being followed and returned to Denver. There was an attempt by seven suspects to rent a 26-foot truck — an attempt that failed because they would not produce the identification required to do the rental by cash and tried instead to complete the transaction using three different invalid credit cards.

    That there were seven reported suspects involved in the attempted truck rental is telling. The feds arrested only three — Zazi and two others (one of them his father) — and that was only after letting Zazi go home every night during four days of questioning. Clearly, if the agents had a triable terrorism case against everyone they believe is involved, they’d charge it. Instead, they’ve grabbed three suspects for making false statements. At this point, either they haven’t got enough evidence to make terrorism charges stick or they’ve got evidence on a low-level player or two but can’t risk a public proceeding that would alert other conspirators.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  7. I see the issue about what does and does not constitute a “WMD”. Few people would consider a box cutter a WMD, but the manner in which they were used resulted in mass casualties.

    Perhaps however the laws are written needs to take into account the scope of destruction that is intended, and not just focus on the “weapon” per se.

    The Oklahoma city homemade bomb was technically very different from one made from hydrogen peroxide and acetone. Trying to make a “large” bomb from the product of H2O2 and acetone I think would kill the would-be bombers before they got it to a target, from what one can find about it in books and web sites by “explosives hobbyists”.

    MD in Philly (d4f9fa)

  8. Liberals will spin this as another case (like the Sears Tower or Brooklyn Bridge) where the plot was so outlandish that these amateurs never could carry out.

    Now if someone had been killed they would want to know why the police and FBI were so incompetent.

    Can Zazi claim his arrest is due to racism and the fact that he supports Obama’s health care plan?

    MU789 (511984)

  9. People who are arguing about the “weapons of mass destruction” term need to realize that the term is now part of the statutory definition of a crime, and that it is the statute that defines “mass destruction” in different terms than the traditional strategic/operational military weapons definition.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  10. I’ve updated the post on an issue raised by Mike K in the comments: Did a law enforcement turf war blow the NY investigation?

    DRJ (b008f8)

  11. SPQR is correct. Federal law in this area is a little mindblowing. The legal definition (not military) include (going from memory here), rockets with a propellant charge of more than 4 OUNCES, bombs with explosive or incendiary charges as small as 1/4 of an OUNCE (yes that was a quarter), any projectile firing weapon with a bore or caliber more than .5 inchs (excepting shotguns which the authorities can exempt if they wish to if they state they have legitimate sport/defense aplications (and certain makes have been not so exempted)).

    I did a security reveiw for a corporate retail center a few years ago and the review forms had us listing all on site materials which were or could be modified to be used as improvised WMD by this definition. You have no idea how much crap found in a mall could be considered WMD if a quarter ounce of it will explode. (That wasn’t as bad as having to list all sellers of gasoline, deisel, propane or any other potentially exlosive or incendiary material in a two and half mile radius.

    Have Blue (854a6e)

  12. Thank you, Have Blue.

    The legal definition seems to be too inclusive as much as the military definition is too exclusive. Does this mean that 100,000’s of “WMDs” were fired off on the 4th of July?

    MD in Philly (d4f9fa)


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