History > 2009 > USA > Terrorism (III)
Terror Attempt Seen
as Man Tries to Ignite Device on Jet
December 26, 2009
The New York Times
By ANAHAD O’CONNOR
and ERIC SCHMITT
A Nigerian man tried to ignite an explosive device aboard a trans-Atlantic
Northwest Airlines flight as the plane prepared to land in Detroit on Friday, in
an incident the United States believes was “an attempted act of terrorism,”
according to a White House official who declined to be identified.
The device, described by officials as a mixture of powder and liquid, failed to
fully detonate. Passengers on the plane described a series of pops that sounded
Federal officials said the man wanted to bring the plane down.
“This was the real deal,” said Representative Peter T. King of New York, the
ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, who was briefed on
the incident and said something had gone wrong with the explosive device, which
he described as somewhat sophisticated. “This could have been devastating,” Mr.
The incident is likely to lead to heightened security during the busy holiday
It was unclear how the man, identified by federal officials as Abdul Farouk
Abdulmutallab, 23, managed to get the explosive on the plane, an Airbus A330
wide-body jet carrying 278 passengers that departed from Amsterdam with
passengers who had originated in Nigeria. A senior administration official said
that the government did not yet know whether the man had had the capacity to
take down the plane.
“We’re trying to ascertain exactly what he had and what he thought he was doing,
but our sense is he wanted to wreak some havoc here and was attempting to do
just that,” the official said. “Whether at the end of the day he had the ability
to do that is what I think we’ll be able to pull together over the next several
days as we investigate this.”
A senior Department of Homeland Security official said that the materials Mr.
Abdulmutallab had on him were “more incendiary than explosive,” and that he had
tried to ignite them to cause a fire as the airliner was approaching Detroit.
Mr. Abdulmutallab told law enforcement authorities, the official said, that he
had had explosive powder taped to his leg and that he had mixed it with
chemicals held in a syringe.
A federal counterterrorism official who asked not to be identified said Mr.
Abdulmutallab was apparently in a government law enforcement-intelligence
database, but it is not clear what extremist group or individuals he might be
“It’s too early to say what his association is,” the counterterrorism official
said. “At this point, it seems like he was acting alone, but we don’t know for
sure.” Although Mr. Abdulmutallab is said to have told officials that he was
directed by Al Qaeda, the counterterrorism official expressed caution about that
claim, saying “it may have been aspirational.”
The incident unfolded just before noon. “There was a pop that sounded like a
firecracker,” said Syed Jafry, a passenger who said he had been sitting three
rows ahead of the suspect. A few seconds later, he said, there was smoke and
“some glow” from the suspect’s seat and on the left side of the plane.
“There was a panic,” said Mr. Jafry, 57, of Holland, Ohio. “Next thing you know
everybody was on him.” He said the passengers and the crew subdued the man.
The suspect was brought by the crew to the front of the plane — Northwest
Airlines Flight 253, bearing Delta’s name — and the plane made its descent into
Detroit Metropolitan Airport, landing at 11:53 a.m. (The two airlines merged
last year.) Once on the ground, it was immediately guided to the end of a
runway, where it was surrounded by police cars and emergency vehicles and
searched by a bomb-disabling robot.
Sandra Berchtold, a spokeswoman with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s
Detroit office, said F.B.I. agents were at the scene Friday night and were
investigating the matter.
One federal official who requested anonymity said Mr. Abdulmutallab had suffered
severe burns but was expected to survive. A Michigan state official confirmed
that he was being treated at the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor.
President Obama was kept informed throughout the day as he spent Christmas with
his family and friends at a secluded Hawaiian beach house. After a secure
conference call, he was given several follow-up briefings on paper. John O.
Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief, convened an interagency meeting
in the late afternoon to go over what was known about the incident and discuss
what precautions should be taken.
A second Department of Homeland Security official said that the Transportation
Security Administration used layers of security measures at the nation’s
airports and that it would be tightening them as a result of the incident in
These measures — some visible to passengers, some not — include bomb-sniffing
dog teams, carry-on luggage and passenger screening measures, and plainclothes
behavioral-detection specialists inside airport terminals. The official said
there were no immediate plans to elevate the nation’s threat level, which has
been at orange since 2006.
Mr. King, of the Homeland Security Committee, said there was no indication at
this point that anyone else was involved, but he said officials would look back
to see if any intelligence signals were missed. “For a while now we have had
real concerns about Al Qaeda or terrorist connections in Nigeria,” he said.
Of the device used on Friday, he said, “It appears to be different from
explosive devices that have been used before. That is perhaps why it escaped
detection. Maybe that is why it made it through.”
Questions have been raised for years about aviation security in Nigeria. Last
month, however, the T.S.A. said that standards at the Lagos airport met
international criteria for security.
Friday’s incident brought to mind Richard C. Reid, the so-called shoe bomber,
who attempted to blow up an American Airlines flight between Paris and Miami in
December 2001 by igniting explosives in his shoes. Mr. Reid was subdued by a
flight attendant and passengers and the plane landed safely in Boston. Mr. Reid
later pleaded guilty to three terrorism-related counts and was sentenced to life
in prison. Since then, airline passengers have had to remove their shoes before
passing through security checkpoints in American airports.
In August 2006, British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up planes bound for
the United States using explosives that would be mixed with liquids on board.
Eight men were arrested, and three were convicted in the case this fall. British
authorities estimated that as many as 2,000 airplane passengers might have been
killed had the plotters been successful. The plot led security officials to
limit the amount of liquids and gels that passengers can bring on board in their
Anahad O’Connor reported from New York, and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Peter
Baker contributed reporting from Hawaii, Eric Lipton from Washington, and
Micheline Maynard, Nick Bunkley and Bill Vlasic from Detroit.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: December 29, 2009
An article on Saturday about a thwarted terrorist attack aboard a commercial
flight from Amsterdam to Detroit that was carrying some passengers who had begun
their trip in Nigeria misstated the status of commercial flights between Nigeria
and the United States. At least two airlines, Delta and Arik, offer nonstop
commercial flights between the countries; it is not the case that no such
service is offered.
Terror Attempt Seen as
Man Tries to Ignite Device on Jet, NYT, 26.12.2009,
To Beat Al Qaeda, Look to the East
December 13, 2009
The New York Times
By SCOTT ATRAN
IN testimony last week before Congress, the American ambassador to Afghanistan,
Karl Eikenberry, insisted that President Obama’s revised war strategy will
“build support for the Afghan government,” while Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the
top American commander there, vowed that it will “absolutely” succeed in
disrupting and degrading the Taliban.
Confidence is important, but we also have to recognize that the decision to
commit 30,000 more troops to a counterinsurgency effort against a good segment
of the Afghan population, with the focus on converting a deeply unpopular and
corrupt regime into a unified, centralized state for the first time in that
country’s history, is far from a slam dunk. In the worst case, the surge may
push General McChrystal’s “core goal of defeating Al Qaeda” further away.
Al Qaeda is already on the ropes globally, with ever-dwindling financial and
popular support, and a drastically diminished ability to work with other
extremists worldwide, much less command them in major operations. Its lethal
agents are being systematically hunted down, while those Muslims whose souls it
seeks to save are increasingly revolted by its methods.
Unfortunately, this weakening viral movement may have a new lease on life in
Afghanistan and Pakistan because we are pushing the Taliban into its arms. By
overestimating the threat from Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, we are making it a
greater threat to Pakistan and the world. Afghanistan and the tribal areas of
Pakistan are unlike Iraq, the ancient birthplace of central government, or 1960s
Vietnam, where a strong state was backing the Communist insurgents. Afghanistan
and Pakistan must be dealt with on their own terms.
We’re winning against Al Qaeda and its kin in places where antiterrorism efforts
are local and built on an understanding that the ties binding terrorist networks
today are more cultural and familial than political. Consider recent events in
In September, Indonesian security forces killed Noordin Muhammad Top, then on
the F.B.I.’s most-wanted terrorist list. Implicated in the region’s worst
suicide bombings — including the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton bombings in
Jakarta last July 17 — Noordin Top headed a splinter group of the extremist
religious organization Jemaah Islamiyah (he called it Al Qaeda for the Malaysian
Archipelago). Research by my colleagues and me, supported by the National
Science Foundation and the Defense Department, reveals three critical factors in
such groups inspired by Al Qaeda, all of which local security forces implicitly
grasp but American counterintelligence workers seem to underestimate.
What binds these groups together? First is friendship forged through fighting:
the Indonesian volunteers who fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan styled
themselves the Afghan Alumni, and many kept in contact when they returned home
after the war. The second is school ties and discipleship: many leading
operatives in Southeast Asia come from a handful of religious schools affiliated
with Jemaah Islamiyah. Out of some 30,000 religious schools in Indonesia, only
about 50 have a deadly legacy of producing violent extremists. Third is family
ties; as anyone who has watched the opening scene from “The Godfather” knows,
weddings can be terrific opportunities for networking and plotting.
Understanding these three aspects of terrorist networking has given law
enforcement a leg up on the jihadists. Gen. Tito Karnavian, the leader of the
strike team that tracked down Noordin Top, told me that “knowledge of the
interconnected networks of Afghan Alumni, kinship and marriage groups was very
crucial to uncovering the inner circle of Noordin.”
Consider Noordin Top’s third marriage, which cemented ties to key suspects in
the lead-up to the recent hotel bombings. His father-in-law, who founded a
Jemaah Islamiyah-related boarding school, stashed explosives in his garden with
the aid of another teacher at the school. Using electronic intercepts and
tracing family, school and alumni ties, police officers found the cache in late
June 2009. That discovery may have prompted Noordin Top to initiate the hotel
attacks ahead of a planned simultaneous attack on the residence of President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
In addition, an Afghan Alumnus and nephew of Noordin Top’s father-in-law was
being pursued by the police for his role in a failed plot to blow up a tourist
cafe on Sumatra. Unfortunately, Noordin Top struck the hotels before the
Indonesian police could penetrate the entire network, in part because another
family group was still operating under the police radar. This group included a
florist who smuggled the bombs into the hotels and a man whose eventual arrest
led to discovery of the plot against the president. Both terrorists were married
to sisters of a Yemeni-trained imam who recruited the hotel suicide bombers, and
of another brother who had infiltrated Indonesia’s national airline.
Had the police pulled harder on the pieces of social yarn they had in hand, they
might have unraveled the hotel plot earlier. Still, their work thwarted attacks
planned for the future, including that on the president.
Similarly, security officials in the Philippines have combined intelligence from
American and Australian sources with similar tracking efforts to crack down on
their terrorist networks, and as a result most extremist groups are either
seeking reconciliation with the government — including the deadly Moro Islamic
Liberation Front on the island of Mindanao — or have devolved into
kidnapping-and-extortion gangs with no ideological focus. The separatist Abu
Sayyaf Group, once the most feared force in the region, now has no overall
spiritual or military leaders, few weapons and only a hundred or so fighters.
So, how does this relate to a strategy against Al Qaeda in the West and in
Afghanistan and Pakistan? Al Qaeda’s main focus is harming the United States and
Europe, but there hasn’t been a successful attack in these places directly
commanded by Osama bin Laden and company since 9/11. The American invasion of
Afghanistan devastated Al Qaeda’s core of top personnel and its training camps.
In a recent briefing to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Marc Sageman, a
former C.I.A. case officer, said that recent history “refutes claims by some
heads of the intelligence community that all Islamist plots in the West can be
traced back to the Afghan-Pakistani border.” The real threat is homegrown youths
who gain inspiration from Osama bin Laden but little else beyond an occasional
self-financed spell at a degraded Qaeda-linked training facility.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq encouraged many of these local plots, including the
train bombings in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005. In their aftermaths,
European law and security forces stopped plots from coming to fruition by
stepping up coordination and tracking links among local extremists, their
friends and friends of friends, while also improving relations with young Muslim
immigrants through community outreach. Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have
taken similar steps.
Now we need to bring this perspective to Afghanistan and Pakistan — one that is
smart about cultures, customs and connections. The present policy of focusing on
troop strength and drones, and trying to win over people by improving their
lives with Western-style aid programs, only continues a long history of foreign
involvement and failure. Reading a thousand years of Arab and Muslim history
would show little in the way of patterns that would have helped to predict 9/11,
but our predicament in Afghanistan rhymes with the past like a limerick.
A key factor helping the Taliban is the moral outrage of the Pashtun tribes
against those who deny them autonomy, including a right to bear arms to defend
their tribal code, known as Pashtunwali. Its sacred tenets include protecting
women’s purity (namus), the right to personal revenge (badal), the sanctity of
the guest (melmastia) and sanctuary (nanawateh). Among all Pashtun tribes,
inheritance, wealth, social prestige and political status accrue through the
This social structure means that there can be no suspicion that the male
pedigree (often traceable in lineages spanning centuries) is “corrupted” by
doubtful paternity. Thus, revenge for sexual misbehavior (rape, adultery,
abduction) warrants killing seven members of the offending group and often the
“offending” woman. Yet hospitality trumps vengeance: if a group accepts a guest,
all must honor him, even if prior grounds justify revenge. That’s one reason
American offers of millions for betraying Osama bin Laden fail.
Afghan hill societies have withstood centuries of would-be conquests by keeping
order with Pashtunwali in the absence of central authority. When seemingly
intractable conflicts arise, rival parties convene councils, or jirgas, of
elders and third parties to seek solutions through consensus.
After 9/11, the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, assembled a council of clerics to
judge his claim that Mr. bin Laden was the country’s guest and could not be
surrendered. The clerics countered that because a guest should not cause his
host problems, Mr. bin Laden should leave. But instead of keeping pressure on
the Taliban to resolve the issue in ways they could live with, the United States
ridiculed their deliberation and bombed them into a closer alliance with Al
Qaeda. Pakistani Pashtuns then offered to help out their Afghan brethren.
American-sponsored “reconciliation” efforts between the Afghan government and
the Taliban may be fatally flawed if they include demands that Pashtun hill
tribes give up their arms and support a Constitution that values
Western-inspired rights and judicial institutions over traditions that have
sustained the tribes against all enemies.
THE secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and the special envoy to the region,
Richard Holbrooke, suggest that victory in Afghanistan is possible if the
Taliban who pursue self-interest rather than ideology can be co-opted with
material incentives. But as the veteran war reporter Jason Burke of The Observer
of London told me: “Today, the logical thing for the Pashtun conservatives is to
stop fighting and get rich through narcotics or Western aid, the latter being
much lower risk. But many won’t sell out.”
Why? In part because outsiders who ignore local group dynamics tend to ride
roughshod over values they don’t grasp. My research with colleagues on group
conflict in India, Indonesia, Iran, Morocco, Pakistan and the Palestinian
territories found that helping to improve lives materially does little to reduce
support for violence, and can even increase it if people feel such help
compromises their most cherished values.
The original alliance between the Taliban and Al Qaeda was largely one of
convenience between a poverty-stricken national movement and a transnational
cause that brought it material help. American pressure on Pakistan to attack the
Taliban and Al Qaeda in their sanctuary gave birth to the Pakistani Taliban, who
forged their own ties to Al Qaeda to fight the Pakistani state.
While some Taliban groups use the rhetoric of global jihad to inspire ranks or
enlist foreign fighters, the Pakistani Taliban show no inclination to go after
Western interests abroad. Their attacks, which have included at least three
assaults near nuclear facilities, warrant concerted action — but in Pakistan,
not in Afghanistan. As Mr. Sageman, the former C.I.A. officer, puts it: “There’s
no Qaeda in Afghanistan and no Afghans in Qaeda.”
Pakistan has long preferred a policy of “respect for the independence and
sentiment of the tribes” that was advised in 1908 by Lord Curzon, the British
viceroy of India who established the North-West Frontier Province as a buffer
zone to “conciliate and contain” the Pashtun hill tribes. In 1948, Pakistan’s
founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, removed all troops from brigade level up in
Waziristan and other tribal areas in a plan aptly called Operation Curzon.
The problem today is that Al Qaeda is prodding the Pakistani Taliban to hit
state institutions in the hopes of provoking a full-scale invasion of the tribal
areas by the Pakistani Army; the idea is that such an assault would rally the
tribes to Al Qaeda’s cause and threaten the state. The United States has been
pushing for exactly that sort of potentially disastrous action by Islamabad. But
holding to Curzon’s line may still be Pakistan’s best bet. The key in the
Afghan-Pakistani area, as in Southeast Asia, is to use local customs and
networks to our advantage. Of course, counterterrorism measures are only as
effective as local governments that execute them. Afghanistan’s government is
corrupt, unpopular and inept.
Besides, there’s really no Taliban central authority to talk to. To be Taliban
today means little more than to be a Pashtun tribesman who believes that his
fundamental beliefs and customary way of life are threatened. Although most
Taliban claim loyalty to Afghanistan’s Mullah Omar, this allegiance varies
greatly. Many Pakistani Taliban leaders — including Baitullah Mehsud, who was
killed by an American drone in August, and his successor, Hakimullah Mehsud —
rejected Mullah Omar’s call to forgo suicide bombings against Pakistani
In fact, it is the United States that holds today’s Taliban together. Without
us, their deeply divided coalition could well fragment. Taliban resurgence
depends on support from those notoriously unruly hill tribes in Pakistan’s
border regions, who are unsympathetic to the original Taliban program of
homogenizing tribal custom and politics under one rule.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the Taliban were to sever ties to Mr. bin Laden if
he became a bigger headache to them than America. Al Qaeda may have close
relations to the network of Jalaluddin Haqqani, an Afghan Taliban leader living
in Pakistan, and the Shabi Khel branch of the Mehsud tribe in Waziristan, but it
isn’t wildly popular with many other Taliban factions and forces.
Unlike Al Qaeda, the Taliban are interested in their homeland, not ours. Things
are different now than before 9/11. The Taliban know how costly Osama bin
Laden’s friendship can be. There’s a good chance that enough factions in the
loose Taliban coalition would opt to disinvite their troublesome guest if we
forget about trying to subdue them or hold their territory. This would unwind
the Taliban coalition into a lot of straggling, loosely networked groups that
could be eliminated or contained using the lessons learned in Indonesia and
elsewhere. This means tracking down family and tribal networks, gaining a better
understanding of family ties and intervening only when we see actions by Taliban
and other groups to aid Al Qaeda or act outside their region.
To defeat violent extremism in Afghanistan, less may be more — just as it has
been elsewhere in Asia.
Scott Atran, an anthropologist at the National Center for Scientific Research
in Paris, John Jay College and the University of Michigan, is the author of the
forthcoming “Listen to the Devil.”
To Beat Al Qaeda, Look
to the East, NYT, 13.12.2009,
Muslims Say F.B.I. Tactics
Sow Anger and Fear
December 18, 2009
The New York Times
By PAUL VITELLO
and KIRK SEMPLE
The anxiety and anger have been building all year. In March, a national
coalition of Islamic organizations warned that it would cease cooperating with
the F.B.I. unless the agency stopped infiltrating mosques and using “agents
provocateurs to trap unsuspecting Muslim youth.”
In September, a cleric in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, sued the government, claiming
that the F.B.I. had threatened to scuttle his application for a green card
unless he agreed to spy on relatives overseas — echoing similar claims made in
recent court cases in California, Florida and Massachusetts.
And last month, after an imam in Queens was charged with aiding what the
authorities called a bomb-making plot, a group of South Asian Muslims there
began compiling a database of complaints about their brushes with
Since the terror attacks of 2001, the F.B.I. and Muslim and Arab-American
leaders across the country have worked to build a relationship of trust, sharing
information both to fight terrorism and to protect the interests of mosques and
But those relations have reached a low point in recent months, many Muslim
leaders say. Several high-profile cases in which informers have infiltrated
mosques and helped promote plots, they say, have sown a corrosive fear among
their people that F.B.I. informers are everywhere, listening.
“There is a sense that law enforcement is viewing our communities not as
partners but as objects of suspicion,” said Ingrid Mattson, president of the
Islamic Society of North America, who represented Muslims at the national prayer
service a day after President Obama’s inauguration. “A lot of people are really,
really alarmed about this.”
There is little doubt that a spate of recent cases — from the alleged bomb plot
by a former Manhattan coffee vendor, Najibullah Zazi, to the shootings at Fort
Hood, in Texas — has heightened Americans’ concerns about homegrown terrorism.
Muslim leaders have promised to redouble efforts to combat extremism in their
Yet they also worry about the fallout for the vast numbers of the innocent. Some
Muslims, Ms. Mattson said, have canceled trips abroad to avoid arousing
suspicion. People are wary of whom they speak to. Community groups say it is
harder to find volunteers. Many Muslim charities are hobbled.
And some law enforcement experts warn of a farther-reaching consequence: the
loss of a critical early-warning system against domestic terrorism.
“This is a national security issue,” said David Schanzer, who heads the Triangle
Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University. “It’s absolutely
vital that the F.B.I. and the Muslim-American community clear the air and figure
out how to work together.”
Even in better times, the relationship has been a challenge to maintain, given
that counterterrorism agents operate on multiple levels — holding open meetings
at a mosque, say, and seeding it with informers.
The F.B.I. has defended its practices, saying it must pursue suspects wherever
they go. Paul Bresson, an F.B.I. spokesman, said in an interview that it tries
to resolve anxieties by giving community leaders “explanations, where the
circumstances permit, and resolving concerns where possible.”
In October, agents met privately in Queens with more than 40 Muslim and
Arab-American leaders to hear their grievances, and agency officials said they
anticipated more sessions in New York and other cities. In July, Attorney
General Eric H. Holder Jr. took questions about counterterrorism tactics from
200 young Muslims at a Los Angeles mosque.
Mr. Bresson said that no group is spotlighted because of its members’ religion
or ethnicity. “The F.B.I. investigates people, not places, and only when we have
information or allegations that persons are or may be committing crimes or
posing a risk to national security,” he said.
Yet the Justice Department has in the last two years loosened some restrictions
on agents’ ability to start and conduct terrorism investigations. The new
guidelines, which the F.B.I. confirmed in October in response to a suit filed by
the civil rights group Muslim Advocates, make it easier to plant informers and
allow agents to include ethnicity and religion in the assessment of targets, as
long as those are not the only factors considered.
After four members of a mosque in Newburgh, N.Y., were charged in May with
plotting to bomb two Bronx synagogues, the authorities acknowledged that the
investigation had begun with an informer who became a linchpin in the scheme.
Congregation members said he had frequented the mosque, offering young men money
The Queens imam arrested in September as investigators pursued the coffee vendor
was an informer who had helped authorities. Last month, federal prosecutors
moved to seize several buildings across the country that house mosques, saying
they were owned by a nonprofit group with links to Iran. As a rare federal
investigation that has ensnared houses of worship, the case stoked apprehensions
that the government sees Arab-Americans and Muslims as a people apart.
“We are citizens who care about our country as much as everyone,” said Wael
Mousfar, president of the Arab Muslim American Federation, a New York umbrella
group. “But people don’t know what to expect — who might report them for
speaking about Middle East politics, what someone might get your teenage son to
His community’s relations with law enforcement were rocky in the weeks after
9/11, when the authorities began detaining hundreds of Muslim and Arab
noncitizens, most of whom were cleared of links to terrorism and deported. But
F.B.I. officials and leaders of Muslim, South Asian and Arab-American groups
eventually forged an understanding, maintaining communication channels.
Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab-American Association of New York, a
social-services agency, said that even then, the connection felt tentative. She
was baffled when bonds that she and other leaders established with a New York
F.B.I. chief evaporated upon the arrival of his successor.
Experts say that complaint partly reflects high turnover.
It also attests to differing views within the bureau about the effectiveness of
community outreach, said Michael Rolince, a former director of counterterrorism
in the F.B.I.’s Washington field office. Some factions within the agency, he
said, have always been leery of Islamic and Arab-American organizations,
considering their loyalties to be divided.
“There are some people in the bureau who believe, as I do, that the relationship
with the Muslim community is crucial and must be developed with consistency,”
Mr. Rolince said. “And there are those who don’t.”
The American Muslim Task Force on Civil Rights and Elections, which threatened
to cease cooperating with the F.B.I., has not yet done so.
But by most accounts, the unraveling of ties between the F.B.I. and
Muslim-Americans began two years ago, with the F.B.I.’s decision to stop sharing
information with the nation’s most prominent Muslim civil rights organization,
the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The F.B.I. said it was motivated by
council executives’ failure to answer questions about links with the Palestinian
militant group Hamas. The executives denied any such connection, and accused the
F.B.I. of staining the council’s reputation without due process.
In June, the American Civil Liberties Union made a similar complaint about
Justice Department decisions to shut down six Muslim charities without filing
charges. The moves, which froze billions of dollars in assets, have instilled
among Muslims “a pervasive fear that they may be arrested, prosecuted, targeted
for law enforcement interviews” if they give to any Islamic charity, the
Imam Mohammad Shamsi Ali, chief cleric at the Islamic Cultural Center of New
York, in Manhattan, said that his organization had suffered a 30 to 40 percent
decline in contributions since 2001, in part because of that fear. He said the
center no longer solicits donations from individuals living abroad ”because of
the possibility that we could be misunderstood.”
Still, the specter looming largest among immigrant Arabs and Muslims is fear of
deportation. And some say the F.B.I. has used that threat forcefully.
Sheik Tarek Saleh, the Bay Ridge cleric who is suing the government, said he
welcomed F.B.I. agents at his storefront mosque after 9/11 when they asked about
his kinship with Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, a high-ranking Al Qaeda militant and his
Sheik Saleh, 46, said he repeatedly discussed Mr. Yazid as well as his own
former membership in the Muslim Brotherhood, a sometimes-violent political
movement he joined as a teenager in Egypt and disavowed years later. But when he
refused to travel overseas to spy on Mr. Yazid, he said, agents told him to
forget his pending application for permanent residence.
In February, immigration officials told Sheik Saleh that the application had
been rejected because he failed to fill in a section about ties to political
groups. He contends that was a minor oversight. F.B.I. and immigration officials
would not discuss his case.
Sheik Saleh said that he faced deportation because he resisted F.B.I. pressure.
“Your dignity is bigger than the green card,” he said.
Zein Rimawi, a pet store owner and a founder of the Al-Noor School, a private
school in Bay Ridge, said anxiety made people cautious about transactions with
individuals and institutions — even his school, which he said was $700,000 in
debt as a result.
Mr. Rolince, the former F.B.I. agent, said he understood the worries, but felt
they were overblown. “The F.B.I. has 12,500 agents,” he said. “Believe me,
there’s not enough of them to waste time looking at you unless they have a good
Ali Adeeb and Majeed Babar contributed reporting.
Muslims Say F.B.I.
Tactics Sow Anger and Fear, NYT, 18.12.2009,
U.S. Said to Pick Illinois Prison
to House Detainees
December 15, 2009
The New York Times
By CHARLIE SAVAGE
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is expected to announce on Tuesday that
it has selected a prison in northwestern Illinois to house terrorism suspects
now being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in a major step toward shutting down
that military detention facility.
An administration official said President Obama had directed the federal
government to proceed with acquiring the Thomson Correctional Center, a
maximum-security prison in a rural village about 150 miles west of Chicago.
Gov. Patrick J. Quinn of Illinois and the state’s senior senator, Richard J.
Durbin, will be briefed about the plan at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.
The officials, both Democrats, have been enthusiastic supporters of bringing
Guantánamo prisoners to Thomson, arguing that it would bring jobs to an
impoverished part of the state.
When talk of bringing Guantánamo detainees to Thomson first surfaced in late
November, both Mr. Quinn and Mr. Durbin held a series of news conferences to
promote the idea of turning over the empty state prison, which was built in 2001
at a cost to Illinois taxpayers of about $120 million, to the federal penal
Top Illinois Republicans — including Representatives Donald Manzullo, whose
district includes the prison, and Mark Steven Kirk, a candidate for the United
States Senate seat once held by Mr. Obama — have denounced previous talk of such
a move, saying it could make Illinois a target for terrorist attacks.
But Obama administration officials argue that the prison would be secure and
that it would enhance national security to close Guantánamo because it has
become a global symbol and a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda.
Mr. Obama declared shortly after his inauguration that he would close the
Guantánamo prison — a signature component of the Bush administration’s
counterterrorism policy — within a year. But dealing with the roughly 200
detainees at the prison has proved difficult, and he is widely expected to miss
In May, Mr. Obama proposed bringing some detainees to a facility inside the
United States, including some who officials have decided are too difficult to
prosecute and too dangerous to release. They would continue to be held without
trial as “combatants” under the laws of war.
Under the proposal for Thomson, the Bureau of Prisons would buy the facility and
improve its security. Most of the prison would house ordinary high-security
inmates, but a part would be leased to the Defense Department to hold terror
It was not immediately clear how the government would pay for the prison and
upgrades, but White House officials have floated the idea of including financing
for it in the 2010 military appropriations bill.
Earlier this year, Congress enacted a law forbidding Guantánamo detainees to be
brought onto United States soil except for the purpose of prosecution. But
leading Democrats said they were open to lifting that restriction after the
administration came up with a plan for how to handle the prisoners.
U.S. Said to Pick
Illinois Prison to House Detainees, NYT, 15.12.2009,
New Cases Test
Optimism on Extremism
by U.S. Muslims
December 12, 2009
The New York Times
By SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON — As the years passed after Sept. 11, 2001, without another major
attack on American soil and with no sign of hidden terrorist cells, many
counterterrorism specialists reached a comforting conclusion: Muslims in the
United States were not very vulnerable to radicalization.
American Muslims, the reasoning went, were well assimilated in diverse
communities with room for advancement. They showed little of the alienation
often on display among their European counterparts, let alone attraction to
But with a rash of recent cases in which Americans have been accused of being
drawn into terrorist scheming, the rampage at Fort Hood, Tex., last month and
now the alarming account of five young Virginia men who went to Pakistan and are
suspected of seeking jihad, the notion that the United States has some immunity
against homegrown terrorists is coming under new scrutiny.
It is a concern that President Obama noted in passing in his address on the
decision to send 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan, and one that has
grown as the Afghan war and the hunt for Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan
“These events certainly call the consensus into question,” said Robert S.
Leiken, who studies terrorism at the Nixon Center, a Washington policy
institute, and wrote the forthcoming book “Europe’s Angry Muslims.”
“The notion of a difference between Europe and United States remains relevant,”
Mr. Leiken said. But the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the
American operations like drone strikes in Pakistan, are fueling radicalization
at home, he said.
“Just the length of U.S. involvement in these countries is provoking more Muslim
Americans to react,” Mr. Leiken said.
Concern over the recent cases has profoundly affected Muslim organizations in
the United States, which have renewed pledges to campaign against extremist
“Among leaders, there’s a recognition that there’s a challenge within our
community that needs to be addressed,” said Alejandro J. Beutel, government
liaison at the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington, and main author of a
report by the council on radicalization and how to combat it.
Mr. Beutel, a Muslim convert from New Jersey, said the council started a
grass-roots counterradicalization effort in 2005, but acknowledged that “for a
while it was on the back burner.” He said, “Now we’re going to revive it.”
F.B.I. investigators were in Pakistan on Friday questioning the five Virginia
men. But it remained unclear whether the men would be deported to the United
States, and whether they had broken any laws in either Pakistan or the United
At a news conference Friday at the small Virginia mosque where the men had been
youth group regulars, mosque officials expressed bewilderment at claims that the
men wanted to join the jihad against American troops in Afghanistan.
“I never observed any extreme behavior from them,” said Mustafa Maryam, who runs
the youth group and said he had known the young men since 2006. “They were
fun-loving, career-focused children. They had a bright future before them.”
Also at the press briefing, asked about reports that the five men had contacted
a Pakistani militant via the Web, Mahdi Bray, the head of the Freedom Foundation
of the Muslim American Society, told reporters that YouTube and social
networking sites had become a dangerous recruiting tool for militants.
“We are determined not to let religious extremists exploit the vulnerability of
our children through this slick, seductive propaganda on the Internet,” said Mr.
Bray, who is organizing a youth meeting later this month in Chicago to address
“Silence in cyberspace is not an option for us,” he said.
The detention of the Virginia men — ranging in age from late teens to mid-20s —
would have prompted soul-searching no matter when it occurred. But it comes
after a series of disturbing cases that already had terror experts speculating
about a trend.
There were the November shootings that took 13 lives at Fort Hood, with murder
charges pending against Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an American-born Muslim and an
There was the arrest of Najibullah Zazi, born in Afghanistan but the seeming
model of the striving immigrant as a popular coffee vendor in Manhattan, accused
of going to Pakistan for explosives training with the intention of attacking in
the United States.
There was David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American living in Chicago, accused
of helping plan the killings in Mumbai, India, last year and of plotting attacks
There was Bryant Neal Vinas, a Muslim convert from Long Island who participated
in a rocket attack on American troops in Afghanistan and used his knowledge of
commuter trains in New York to advise Al Qaeda about potential targets.
There were the Somali-Americans from Minnesota who had traveled to Somalia to
join a violent Islamist movement.
And there were cases of would-be terrorists who plotted attacks in Texas,
Illinois and North Carolina with conspirators who turned out to be F.B.I.
Bruce Hoffman, who studies terrorism at Georgetown University, said the recent
cases only confirmed that it was “myopic” to believe “we could insulate
ourselves from the currents affecting young Muslims everywhere else.”
Like many other specialists, Mr. Hoffman pointed to the United States’ combat in
Muslim lands as the only obvious spur to many of the recent cases, especially
those with a Pakistani connection.
“The longer we’ve been in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said, “the more some
susceptible young men are coming to believe that it’s their duty to take up arms
to defend their fellow Muslims.”
A few analysts, in fact, argue that Mr. Obama’s decision to send more troops to
Afghanistan — intended to prevent a terrorist haven there — could backfire.
Robert A. Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist, contends that
suicide attacks are almost always prompted by resentment of foreign troops, and
that escalation in Afghanistan will fuel more plots.
“This new deployment increases the risk of the next 9/11,” he said. “It will not
make this country safer.”
Yet amid the concern about the five Virginia men and the impact of the wars on
Muslim opinion, Audrey Kurth Cronin of the National War College in Washington
said she found something to take comfort in.
“To me, the most interesting thing about the five guys is that it was their
parents that went immediately to the F.B.I.,” she said. “It was members of the
American Muslim community that put a stop to whatever those men may have been
Janie Lorber contributed reporting from Alexandria, Va.
New Cases Test Optimism
on Extremism by U.S. Muslims, NYT, 12.12.2009,
Chicago Man Is Charged
in 2008 Attack on Mumbai
December 8, 2009
The New York Times
By GINGER THOMPSON and DAVID JOHNSTON
WASHINGTON — An American at the center of an international terrorism
investigation has been charged with helping plot the 2008 rampage in Mumbai,
India, that left 163 people dead, according to a Justice Department complaint
unsealed on Monday.
The suspect, David C. Headley of Chicago, is accused of helping identify targets
for a Pakistan-based terrorist group called Lashkar-e-Taiba, whose two-day
attack on luxury hotels, a popular restaurant, a Jewish community center and a
crowded train station brought India’s financial capital to a halt and shocked
the world. The complaint described Mr. Headley’s repeated scouting visits to the
sites nearly two years before the attacks, which have reignited tensions between
India and Pakistan.
The authorities say that among his conspirators was Ilyas Kashmiri, regarded by
Western officials as one of the most dangerous Islamic militants operating in
Pakistan’s restive tribal areas.
The charges, including six counts of conspiracy to bomb public places and to
murder and maim, significantly expanded the government’s case against Mr.
Headley, 49. And his profile — he has roots in the United States and links to
high levels of the Pakistani government and military — makes him a highly
unusual terror suspect.
Mr. Headley was arrested in October, along with another Chicago resident,
Tahawwur Rana, and charged with plotting to attack a Danish newspaper that in
2005 published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, outraging much of the
Since his arrest, Mr. Headley has cooperated with the authorities. That
assistance, along with new leads from the authorities in Pakistan and India, and
an examination of e-mail messages between Mr. Headley and others suspected in
the two plots, led to the new charges involving the Mumbai killings, officials
In recent weeks, the Justice Department has sent investigators to Mumbai to look
into evidence being gathered by the authorities there.
Justice Department officials on Monday also announced charges against a retired
major in the Pakistani military, Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, in the newspaper
scheme. Neither he nor Mr. Rana has been charged in connection with the Mumbai
attacks. But court documents allege that Mr. Rana, a Canadian citizen who
operates several businesses in Chicago and Toronto, helped Mr. Headley get the
documents and alibi he needed to travel inconspicuously to India.
A lawyer for Mr. Headley refused to comment. Mr. Rana’s lawyer could not be
reached. The authorities refused to say whether Mr. Rehman was in custody in
Pakistan, citing the diplomatic tensions the case has caused in the United
States, India and Pakistan.
In the complaint, prosecutors said Mr. Headley received training from
Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is dedicated to ending Indian rule of Kashmir, on several
occasions from February 2002 to December 2003. After he was instructed by the
group to conduct surveillance in Mumbai, the complaint says, he made five trips
there from 2006 to 2008. Each time, he took photos and videos of various
targets, including the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Oberoi Hotel, the Leopold Café, the
Nariman House and a Mumbai train station.
In April 2008, Mr. Headley also scouted locations in and around the Mumbai
harbor, looking for a safe landing for a boat that would carry the Lashkar
operatives, officials say. After the visits, he traveled to Pakistan to hand
over his photos and other material to his contacts.
Seven months later, at least 10 men landed at the port in two inflatable boats
and attacked the city with grenades and assault rifles. Among the many killed
were six Americans. Hundreds more were injured.
Federal officials said the case against Mr. Headley underscored the potential
threat posed by American citizens who could use their ability to travel easily
across borders in support of such plots.
The assistant attorney general for national security, David Kris, said, “This
case serves as a reminder that the terrorist threat is global in nature and
requires constant vigilance at home and abroad.”
William Headley, the suspect’s uncle, reacted with shock to the accusations on
Monday. “You might as well be telling me my nephew is being charged with 9/11,”
William Headley said in an interview. “That’s like pouring cold water inside me.
He’s been in trouble before, but we thought something like this was beyond his
David Headley, the son of a former Pakistani diplomat and an American socialite
from Philadelphia, was born in Washington and raised in elite circles in
Pakistan, where he attended a strict military high school. His parents divorced
when he was young.
At 17, he arrived in the United States to live with his free-spirited mother,
whose lifestyle clashed with his disciplined Muslim upbringing.
Friends and a relative said Mr. Headley dropped out of college and fell into
trouble. In 1998 he was convicted of smuggling heroin into the United States,
but avoided a long jail sentence by cooperating with the authorities. He later
conducted undercover operations in Pakistan for the Drug Enforcement
In 2006, he moved to Chicago, where he has a wife and children. But he no longer
stayed in touch with most members of his family, relatives said. It is not clear
if he has any contact with a half-brother, Daniel Gilani, who is a spokesman for
Pakistan’s prime minister.
In recent months, Mr. Headley sent e-mail messages to former classmates at his
military school defending terrorism.
The authorities said Mr. Headley went by his birth name, Daood Gilani, until
2005 when Lashkar-e-Taiba recruited him to scout locations for the Mumbai
attack. It was then that he changed his name — David is English for Daood — to
portray himself more convincingly as an American and ease overseas travel, the
Mr. Headley has not appeared in court since his arrest. Mr. Rana appeared for a
bail hearing last week, where his lawyer presented witnesses to help argue that
Mr. Rana was an innocent businessman who had been duped.
Mr. Rana’s lawyer, Patrick Blegen, said his client did not know of any terrorist
plot and did not use his immigration consulting firm, as prosecutors claim, as a
front for the conspiracy.
He said that Mr. Rana knew that Mr. Headley had received Lashkar-e-Taiba
training, but not that he was involved with the Mumbai attacks. And he said that
DVDs and other propaganda found in Mr. Rana’s house urging revenge against the
Danish newspaper belonged to Mr. Headley.
Mr. Blegen argued that Mr. Rana was not an advocate of violence, saying that he
was a member of the Iqbal Society, which promotes change through legal and
“It would be like being a member of the Gandhi society,” Mr. Blegen said. Then,
referring to the charges against Mr. Rana, he added, “It’s completely
Emma Graves Fitzsimmons contributed reporting from Chicago.
Chicago Man Is Charged
in 2008 Attack on Mumbai, NYT, 8.12.2009,
With Closing Guantánamo Quits
November 25, 2009
The New York Times
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
WASHINGTON — The Defense Department official in charge of closing the
military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has resigned after only seven months in
the job, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Phillip Carter, who was named deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee
policy in April, resigned last Friday because of “personal issues,” a Pentagon
official said. Mr. Carter could not be reached for comment and no other reasons
were given for his departure.
Mr. Carter, 34, a lawyer and an Army adviser to the Iraqi police in Baquba in
2005 and 2006, was in charge of veterans outreach in President Obama’s 2008
Mr. Carter’s departure comes as the administration has acknowledged that it will
not be able to close the prison by Jan. 22, the self-imposed deadline Mr. Obama
announced immediately after taking office.
Mr. Carter has also left in the middle of the administration’s efforts to
prosecute some of the Guantánamo detainees and find a location in the United
States to house perhaps 50 to 100 terrorism suspects indefinitely. The Cuba
prison now has 215 detainees.
The administration is looking closely at the possibility of holding some of the
detainees in a maximum-security prison in Thomson, Ill., about 125 miles west of
Gregory B. Craig, the White House counsel in charge of detainee policy for Mr.
Obama, also announced his resignation this month.
Official Charged With
Closing Guantánamo Quits, NYT, 25.11.2009,
Charges Detail Road to Terror
for 20 Recruited in U.S.
November 24, 2009
The New York Times
By ANDREA ELLIOTT
Federal officials on Monday unsealed terrorism-related charges against men
they say were key actors in a recruitment effort that led roughly 20 young
Americans to join a violent insurgent group in Somalia with ties to Al Qaeda.
With eight new suspects charged Monday, the authorities have implicated 14
people in the case, one of the most extensive domestic terrorism investigations
since the Sept. 11 attacks. Some of them have been arrested; others are at
large, including several believed to be still fighting with the Somali group, Al
The case represents the largest group of American citizens suspected of joining
an extremist movement affiliated with Al Qaeda, senior officials said. Many of
the recruits had come to America as young refugees fleeing a brutal civil war,
only to settle in a gang-ridden enclave of Minneapolis.
The men named on Monday face federal charges including perjury, providing
material support to a terrorist organization and conspiring to kill, maim,
kidnap or injure people outside the United States.
Law enforcement officials are concerned that the recruits, who hold American
passports, could be commissioned to return to the United States to carry out
attacks here, though so far there is no evidence of such plots.
“The potential implications to national security are significant,” said Ralph S.
Boelter, the special agent in charge of the Minneapolis field office of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation. He added that the nationwide inquiry would
continue with the cooperation of many Somali immigrants and that more arrests
might be coming.
The disclosures are the government’s first public account of a recruitment
operation that it says has largely focused on Somali-American men from the
Minneapolis area. Those young men included Shirwa Ahmed, 26, who carried out a
suicide attack in northern Somalia in October 2008, becoming the first known
American suicide bomber. Since then, at least five other recruits have been
killed in Somalia, relatives and friends say, and four defendants have entered
The court documents, which included unsealed indictments and criminal
complaints, provide chilling details about the experience of the recruits, who
began to enlist in Al Shabaab in September 2007. They attended training camps in
Somalia run by Somali, Arab and Western instructors, who taught them to use
machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades and indoctrinated them with
anti-American and anti-Israeli beliefs, according to one complaint. Two of the
Minneapolis recruits took part in an ambush against Ethiopian troops, and many
others were involved in combat, according to the documents.
One of the fighters, Cabdulaahi Ahmed Faarax, later returned to Minneapolis and
emerged as a recruiter, officials said. A 32-year-old cab driver and divorced
father of two, Mr. Faarax had sustained a leg injury while fighting with Al
Shabaab, a senior law enforcement official said.
In the fall of 2007, he attended a meeting at an unnamed Minneapolis mosque in
which participants spoke by telephone with co-conspirators in Somalia about the
need for fighters, according to the complaint.
Mr. Faarax told potential recruits he had experienced “true brotherhood” while
fighting in Somalia, that to “fight jihad will be fun” and “not to be afraid,”
according to the complaint.
He is estranged from his family, a close relative said in an interview, and
“seemed to have developed another family at his place of worship.”
Another man accused of recruiting, Abdiweli Yassin Isse, encouraged others to
join the fight in Somalia, raising money for their travel through a fake
charity, according to the complaint.
A third man, Mahamud Said Omar, is accused of helping to finance the
recruitment. Officials said Mr. Omar, who was arrested in the Netherlands on
Nov. 8, conspired with nine of the recruits, paying for trips to Somalia and
providing some of the Minneapolis men with hundreds of dollars to buy AK-47
Most of the young Somali-American men suspected of joining Al Shabaab had come
to the United States as small boys or teenagers, after the 1991 collapse of
Somalia’s last fully functioning government.
These young refugees largely settled in the Minneapolis area, struggling to
support single-mother households in a poor urban neighborhood that was rocked by
the violence of Somali street gangs. But many overcame the obstacles in their
paths, making it to college and charting paths as engineers, medical technicians
From Minnesota, these young men showed little interest in the political events
of their homeland, relatives and friends recalled. That changed in December
2006, when the Ethiopian military invaded Somalia, routing an Islamist
insurgency. The invasion, backed by the United States, prompted an outcry among
Somalis in the diaspora.
After the Ethiopians dismantled the Islamist insurgency, its youth and militia
wing — known as Al Shabaab, which means “youth” — regrouped in southern Somalia
and began a new insurgency intended to topple the occupation and install an
Islamic state. In its Internet-driven propaganda, Al Shabaab aggressively
recruited foreign fighters from the West, refashioning a formerly nationalist
cause into a religious movement that carried the endorsement of Al Qaeda.
Friends of the men who left described them as having been driven by a mix of
nationalist and religious fervor. Some wanted to defend their country against
foreign invaders; other saw this “defensive jihad” as their religious duty, the
Interest in the movement appeared to wane as news spread last summer that some
of the recruits had been killed.
In early June, Somalis in Minneapolis learned that 17-year-old Burhan Hassan, a
gifted student who had once dreamed of attending Harvard, had been shot in the
head in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. The shooting happened shortly after he
had told his mother, by phone, that he was planning to defect from Al Shabaab,
the boy’s uncle Osman Ahmed said.
A senior law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said
Mr. Hassan appeared to have been killed by other members of Al Shabaab.
Since then, four of the other Minneapolis recruits have also died, including a
27-year-old convert to Islam, said friends of the recruits who received phone
calls informing them of the deaths.
Through DNA matches, federal officials have confirmed only the deaths of Mr.
Ahmed, the suicide bomber, and Jamal Sheikh Bana, a 20-year-old engineering
Still, there are indications that enlistment continues.
Last month, the Nevada Highway Patrol stopped a rental car carrying five young
Somali men who said they were en route to a wedding in San Diego.
A lawyer with knowledge of the case said three of the men soon crossed the
Mexican border, en route to an airport. The group included two of the men
accused Monday of recruiting, Mr. Faarax and Mr. Isse, a friend of the men said.
The men are still at large.
The friend, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the F.B.I.’s
investigation had made an underdog out of Al Shabaab, which is aiding
“They are reinforcing it,” the friend said.
Abdi Aynte and Paul Demko contributed reporting.
Charges Detail Road to
Terror for 20 Recruited in U.S., NYT, 24.11.2009,
May Point Way for 9/11 Cases
November 23, 2009
The New York Times
By BENJAMIN WEISER
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, suspected of being a Qaeda terrorist, was captured in
Pakistan in 2004, held in secret prisons run by the C.I.A. and then moved to the
naval base at Guantánamo Bay. During about five years of detention, he says, he
was confined in harsh conditions, abused during interrogation and denied a
Since the spring, Mr. Ghailani has also been a defendant in federal court in
Manhattan, the first Guantánamo detainee to be moved to the civilian courts.
From the moment the Obama administration announced that it would seek to try
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the professed planner of 9/11, and other Guantánamo
detainees in the same federal court, the wisdom of the decision has been
debated. Critics of the move have worried that government secrets will leak,
that evidence won through harsh tactics could lead to dismissals, or that a
trial would be used as a platform to spew hate.
There is much that distinguishes a potential trial of Mr. Mohammed from that of
Mr. Ghailani. Mr. Mohammed is a much higher-profile defendant, he could face the
death penalty, and he has said he wants to represent himself. But the
prosecution of Mr. Ghailani, a Tanzanian accused of aiding the bombing of
American Embassies in Africa in 1998, could hold important meaning for
prosecutors and defense lawyers alike.
So far, he has fought — unsuccessfully — to hang onto the military lawyers who
worked with him at Guantánamo. He has argued — successfully — that prosecutors
should seek to preserve as evidence the secret C.I.A. prisons where he was held.
And just last week, Mr. Ghailani and his lawyers filed a formal motion to have
his case thrown out, arguing that he had been denied a basic constitutional
right afforded everyone in the federal court system: a speedy trial.
Gregory Cooper, one of Mr. Ghailani’s lawyers, put it this way: “I’m the scout
going through the forest before the main force comes through.” He added that the
cases against his client and Mr. Mohammed were factually “worlds apart.”
The government, for its part, has said in court that it is not going to
introduce at trial any statements made by Mr. Ghailani “while he was in custody
of other government agencies,” a clear reference to his imprisonment overseas or
One of the most interesting aspects of the Ghailani case involves the judge
hearing it, Lewis A. Kaplan. Judge Kaplan is the most recent judge assigned to
the long and complex series of Qaeda cases in the federal courthouse, and he
could wind up presiding over any prosecution of Mr. Mohammed.
Mr. Ghailani, who is believed to be in his mid-30s, was arraigned for the first
time in New York on June 9, weeks after President Obama announced he would be
sent for trial as part of the effort to close Guantánamo. He pleaded not guilty.
“After over a decade, it is time to finally see that justice is served,” Mr.
Obama said at the time.
Mr. Ghailani has been formally charged with participating in a conspiracy that
included the 1998 bombings of American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, attacks
organized by Al Qaeda that killed 224 people. He later gained the trust of Osama
bin Laden, working for him as a cook and bodyguard, the authorities say.
Mr. Ghailani has sat quietly in court over the months, assisting his lawyers,
responding politely to the judge and forcefully asserting his rights on often
novel issues that could arise if the Sept. 11 defendants go to trial.
In an appearance at Guantánamo in 2007, he apologized for helping others who had
planned and carried out the attack, but said he had been unaware of its purpose.
“It was without my knowledge what they were doing, but I helped them,” he said,
a transcript shows.
One of the first issues Mr. Ghailani raised as a civilian defendant was his
desire to retain the help of two military lawyers who had represented him at
Mr. Ghailani sent a personal letter in broken English to the Defense Department,
asking to keep the lawyers. “It seem to me it will be terribly unfair to me to
loose these two important figures in my defense,” he wrote.
Judge Kaplan last week rejected Mr. Ghailani’s request.
Virtually from the start of the proceedings against Mr. Ghailani, his lawyers,
Mr. Cooper and Peter E. Quijano, made clear they planned to investigate deeply
into Mr. Ghailani’s treatment while in detention. Mr. Ghailani has written in
court papers that he was subjected to cruel interrogation techniques.
“It appears undeniable that the defendant was subjected to harsh conditions and
harsh interrogation techniques while detained in C.I.A. ‘black sites,’ ” his
lawyers wrote to Judge Kaplan, asking for an order that the government not
destroy any of the overseas jails where Mr. Ghailani was held until the defense
could visit and inspect them.
David Raskin, chief of the terrorism unit in the United States attorney’s office
in Manhattan, suggested in court this summer that his office would seek to have
the evidence preserved.
Mr. Raskin’s statement that the government would not use Mr. Ghailani’s
statements while he was detained could well be suggestive of its approach should
a trial of Mr. Mohammed take place. Mr. Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in
2003 as part of the government’s efforts to extract information.
Indeed, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., when asked about a trial in light
of the interrogation techniques, said there was other evidence “that gives me
great confidence that we will be successful in the prosecution of these cases in
If the Sept. 11 detainees decide to mount a defense — still an open question
given their requests to plead guilty at Guantánamo — prosecutors will have to
give their lawyers a mountain of documents, including classified evidence, under
the rules of discovery.
To ensure that secrets do not leak, Judge Kaplan has imposed a protective order
on all classified information, which may be reviewed by the defense lawyers only
in a special “secure area,” a room whose location has not been disclosed.
The order covers all materials that might “reveal the foreign countries in
which” Mr. Ghailani was held from 2004 to 2006 — the period when he was in the
secret jails — and the names and even physical descriptions of any officer
responsible for his detention or interrogation, the order says.
It also covers information about “enhanced interrogation techniques that were
applied” to Mr. Ghailani, “including descriptions of the techniques as applied,
the duration, frequency, sequencing, and limitations of those techniques.”
The defense lawyers, who had to obtain security clearance, cannot disclose the
information to Mr. Ghailani without permission of the court or the government.
Any motions they write based on the material must be prepared in the special
room, and nothing may be filed publicly until it is reviewed by the government.
So, last Monday, when Mr. Ghailani’s lawyers filed a motion seeking dismissal of
the charges because of “the unnecessary delay in bringing the defendant to
trial,” they included only a few mostly blank cover sheets.
The rest of the motion, which presumably offers rich details about Mr.
Ghailani’s time in detention, remains secret, and a censored version will be
made public only after it is cleared by the government.
Judge Kaplan has set a trial date for next fall.
“There’s a public interest in seeing justice done here,” he said.
Karen J. Greenberg, executive director of the Center on Law and Security at New
York University Law School, called the Ghailani prosecution “a perfect
She cited his role as a relatively obscure defendant in a case involving
terrorist acts that occurred before Sept. 11, where there has already been a
trial and convictions, but who is also pressing claims from his years in
“It allows them to take a less emotionally charged case, try it in Manhattan,
and create the parameters of what the court proceedings would be like,” she
Terrorism Trial May
Point Way for 9/11 Cases, NYT, 23.11.2009,
A Terror Suspect
With Feet in East and West
November 22, 2009
The New York Times
By GINGER THOMPSON
PHILADELPHIA — The trip from a strict Pakistani boarding school to a bohemian
bar in Philadelphia has defined David Headley’s life, according to those who
know the middle-age man at the center of a global terrorism investigation.
Raised by his father in Pakistan as a devout Muslim, Mr. Headley arrived back
here at 17 to live with his American mother, a former socialite who ran a bar
called the Khyber Pass.
Today, Mr. Headley is an Islamic fundamentalist who once liked to get high. He
has a traditional Pakistani wife, who lives with their children in Chicago, but
also an American girlfriend — a makeup artist in New York — according to a
relative and friends. Depending on the setting, he alternates between the name
he adopted in the United States, David Headley, and the Urdu one he was given at
birth, Daood Gilani. Even his eyes — one brown, the other green — hint at roots
in two places.
Mr. Headley, an American citizen, is accused of being the lead operative in a
loose-knit group of militants plotting revenge against a Danish newspaper that
published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The indictment against him portrays
a man who moved easily between different worlds. The profile that has emerged of
him since his arrest, however, suggests that Mr. Headley felt pulled between two
cultures and ultimately gravitated toward an extremist Islamic one.
“Some of us are saying that ‘Terrorism’ is the weapon of the cowardly,” Mr.
Headley wrote in an e-mail message to his high school classmates last February.
“I will say that you may call it barbaric or immoral or cruel, but never
He added, “Courage is, by and large, exclusive to the Muslim nation.”
Mr. Headley’s e-mail messages, including many that defended beheadings and
suicide bombings as heroic, are among the evidence in the government’s case
against him and his accused co-conspirator, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, who was born
in Pakistan, is a citizen of Canada and runs businesses in Chicago.
The men, who became close friends in a military academy outside Islamabad, were
arrested last month in Chicago. They are charged with plotting an attack they
labeled the Mickey Mouse Project against Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper
whose cartoons provoked outrage across the Muslim world.
Since then, the investigation has widened beyond Chicago and Copenhagen. The
authorities have learned more, with cooperation from Mr. Headley, about the two
men’s network of contacts with known terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda and
Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group, as well as officials in the
Pakistani government and military. United States and Indian investigators are
also looking into whether the two Chicago men, who traveled to Mumbai before the
deadly assault there last November, may have been involved in the plot.
Mr. Headley, 49, and Mr. Rana, 48, stand out from the young, poor extremists
from fundamentalist Islamic schools who strike targets in or close to their
homelands. Instead, their privileged backgrounds, extensive travel and bouts of
culture shock make them more like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed
architect of the Sept. 11 attacks, who attended college in the United States,
and Mohammed Atta, one of the lead hijackers.
Mr. Rana’s father is a former principal of a high school outside Lahore. One of
his brothers is a Pakistani military psychiatrist who has written several books,
and another is a journalist at a Canadian political newspaper, The Hill Times.
Trained as a physician, Mr. Rana immigrated to Canada in 1997 and became a
citizen a few years later. Then he moved his wife and three children to Chicago,
where he opened a travel agency that also provided immigration services on Devon
Avenue, which cuts through the heart of the city’s Pakistani community. In 2002,
he started a Halal slaughterhouse that butchers goats, sheep and cows according
to Islamic religious laws.
He and his family live in a small brick house on the North Side with a huge
satellite dish on the roof. Neighbors described Mr. Rana as a recluse who rarely
spoke to anyone and whose children never played with others on the street.
“He seemed very committed to his Islamic religion,” said William Rodosky, who
once managed Mr. Rana’s slaughterhouse, in Kinsman, Ill., about 65 miles
southwest of Chicago. “He said he wanted the business so he could provide meat
to his people and make a little money.”
Mr. Rodosky echoed the views of several others who knew and did business with
Mr. Rana when he said he was “shocked about the terrorism charges.”
“As far as I knew, he was very nice man and a very good businessman,” Mr.
But Mr. Headley did not draw the same expressions of shock. Those who knew him
paint a more troubled image.
“Most people have contradictions in their lives, but they learn to reconcile
them,” said William Headley, an uncle who owns a day care center in Nottingham,
Pa. “But Daood could never do that. The left side does not speak to the right
side. And that’s the problem.”
Daood Sayed Gilani was born in Washington, where his parents worked at the
Pakistani Embassy. Friends of the family said his father, Sayed Salim Gilani, a
dashing diplomat and an avid musicologist and poet, charmed his way into the
heart of Serrill Headley, who had left Philadelphia’s Main Line to work as a
secretary at the embassy.
In 1960, the couple and their infant son, Daood, left the United States bound
for England aboard the ship America, and from there went on to Lahore. But the
marriage quickly soured, friends said, as Mr. Gilani immersed himself in the
traditions of his homeland and his bride refused to submit to them.
After Ms. Headley left Mr. Gilani and her son and a daughter, Syedah, in
Pakistan, friends say, the details of her life become lost in a jumble of fact
and fiction. Ms. Headley, a red-haired, green-eyed woman, told friends she
married an “Afghan prince” but then had to flee Kabul after he was murdered.
She arrived back in Philadelphia, friends said, in the early 1970s, taking
different office jobs and dating wealthy suitors until one of them lent her
money to buy an old bar. She turned it into the Khyber Pass, decorated with
billowing Afghan wedding tents and stocked with exotic beers.
In 1977, Pakistan’s government was overthrown in a military coup, and Ms.
Headley, friends said, feared for her children. She traveled to Pakistan,
withdrew her son from the Hasan Abdal Cadet College and brought him to live with
her, a move recorded by The Philadelphia Inquirer. (Her daughter, Syedah, stayed
behind with her father for several years.)
“He has never been alone with, much less had a date with, a girl, except the
servant girls of his household,” the article said, referring to the teenage
Daood Gilani. “But he has just this day found a cricket team to join. And he has
just this day, after watching American TV, said to his mother in his soft
Urdu-English that she is to him like the Bionic Woman.”
According to family friends, the teenager soon rebelled against his mother’s
heavy drinking and multiple sexual relationships by engaging in the same
“Those were the days when girls, weed, and whatever, were readily available,”
Jay Wilson, who worked at the Khyber Pass, wrote in an e-mail message from
England. “Daood was not immune to the pleasures of American adolescence.”
Later, said Lorenzo Lacovara, another former worker at the bar, Daood Gilani
began expressing anger at all non-Muslims.
“He would clearly state he had contempt for infidels,” Mr. Lacovara said in a
telephone interview from New Mexico. “He kept talking about the return of the
14th century, saying Islam was going to take over the world.”
Ms. Headley tried to help her son straighten out his life. In 1985, she put him
in charge of the Khyber Pass, but he proved to be such a poor manager that they
lost the bar a couple of years later, friends of the family said.
Ms. Headley embarked on her third marriage, and her son set off for New York,
where he opened two video rental stores in Manhattan. It is unclear where he got
the money to start the ventures. But court files suggest that the source may not
have been entirely legal.
In 1998, Mr. Gilani, then 38, was convicted of conspiring to smuggle heroin into
the country from Pakistan. Court records show that after his arrest, he provided
so much information about his own involvement with drug trafficking, which
stretched back more than a decade, and about his Pakistani suppliers, that he
was sentenced to less than two years in jail and later went to Pakistan to
conduct undercover surveillance operationsfor the Drug Enforcement
In 2006, he changed his name to David Headley, apparently to make border
crossings between the United States and other countries easier, court documents
say. About that time, his uncle said, he moved his family to Chicago because it
had a large Muslim community and he wanted to send his four children to
There, the family lived in a small second-floor apartment. Mr. Headley claimed
to work for Mr. Rana’s immigration agency. The two men attended the Jame Masjid
mosque on Fridays, then stopped at the nearby Zam Zamrestaurant to eat and talk
politics. Cricket, neighbors said, was their passion.
But Mr. Headley never seemed to fully fit in. Masood Qadir, who sometimes
watched cricket with him, said he was “different” and kept mostly to himself.
E-mail messages show, however, that Mr. Headley stayed in regular contact with
classmates from the military high school he attended in Pakistan, often engaging
in impassioned debates about politics and Islam.
Earlier this year, Mr. Headley complained about “NATO criminal vermin dropping
22,000 lbs bombs on unsuspecting, unarmed Afghan villagers” or “napalming
southeast Asian farmers.” Writing about Pakistan’s chief enemy, he said, “We
will retaliate against India.”
And in an e-mail message defending the beheading of a Polish engineer by the
Taliban in Pakistan, he wrote, “The best way for a man to die is with the
Reporting was contributed by Puk Damsgard in Islamabad, Pakistan; Emma Graves
Fitzsimmons in Chicago; Nate Schweber and John Eligon in New York; and Ian
Austen in Ottawa. Research was contributed by Barclay Walsh in Washington.
A Terror Suspect With
Feet in East and West, NYT, 22.11.2009,
Who Created Major Hasan?
November 22, 2009
The New York Times
By ROBERT WRIGHT
IN the case of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan and the Fort Hood massacre, the verdict
has come in. The liberal news media have been found guilty — by the conservative
news media — of coddling Major Hasan’s religion, Islam.
Liberals, according to the columnist Charles Krauthammer, wanted to medicalize
Major Hasan’s crime — call it an act of insanity rather than of terrorism. They
worked overtime, Mr. Krauthammer said on Fox News, to “avoid any implication
that there was any connection between his Islamist beliefs ... and his actions.”
The columnist Jonah Goldberg agrees. Admit it, he wrote in The Los Angeles
Times, Major Hasan is “a Muslim fanatic, motivated by other Muslim fanatics.”
The good news for Mr. Krauthammer and Mr. Goldberg is that there is truth in
their indictment. The bad news is that their case against the left-wing news
media is the case against right-wing foreign policy. Seeing the Fort Hood
shooting as an act of Islamist terrorism is the first step toward seeing how
misguided a hawkish approach to fighting terrorism has been.
The American right and left reacted to 9/11 differently. Their respective
responses were, to oversimplify a bit: “kill the terrorists” and “kill the
Conservatives backed war in Iraq, and they’re now backing an escalation of the
war in Afghanistan. Liberals (at least, dovish liberals) have warned in both
cases that killing terrorists is counterproductive if in the process you create
even more terrorists; the object of the game isn’t to wipe out every last
Islamist radical but rather to contain the virus of Islamist radicalism.
One reason killing terrorists can spread terrorism is that various technologies
— notably the Internet and increasingly pervasive video — help emotionally
powerful messages reach receptive audiences. When American wars kill lots of
Muslims, inevitably including some civilians, incendiary images magically find
their way to the people who will be most inflamed by them.
This calls into question our nearly obsessive focus on Al Qaeda — the deployment
of whole armies to uproot the organization and to finally harpoon America’s
white whale, Osama bin Laden. If you’re a Muslim teetering toward radicalism and
you have a modem, it doesn’t take Mr. bin Laden to push you over the edge. All
it takes is selected battlefield footage and a little ad hoc encouragement: a
jihadist chat group here, a radical imam there — whether in your local mosque or
on a Web site in your local computer.
This, at least, is the view from the left.
Exhibit A in this argument is Nidal Hasan. By all accounts he was pushed over
the edge by his perception of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He also drew
inspiration from a radical imam, Anwar al-Awlaki. Notably, it had been eight
years since Major Hasan actually saw Mr. Awlaki, who moved from America to Yemen
after 9/11. And for most of those years the two men don’t seem to have
communicated at all. But as Major Hasan got more radicalized by two American
wars and God knows what else, the Internet made it easy to reconnect via e-mail.
The Fort Hood shooting, then, is an example of Islamist terrorism being spread
partly by the war on terrorism — or, actually, by two wars on terrorism, in Iraq
and Afghanistan. And Fort Hood is the biggest data point we have — the most
lethal Islamist terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. It’s only one
piece of evidence, but it’s a salient piece, and it supports the liberal, not
the conservative, war-on-terrorism paradigm.
When the argument is framed like this, don’t be surprised if conservatives,
having insisted that we not medicalize Major Hasan’s crime by calling him crazy,
start underscoring his craziness. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars, they’ll note,
aren’t wars against Islam or against Muslims; Major Hasan must have been deluded
to think that they are! Surely we can’t give veto power over our foreign policy
to a crazy ... well, not crazy, but, you know, not-entirely-sane person like
It’s true that Major Hasan was unbalanced and alienated — and, by my lights,
crazy. But what kind of people did conservatives think were susceptible to the
terrorism meme? Like all viruses, terrorism infects people with low resistance.
And surely Major Hasan isn’t the only American Muslim who, for reasons of
personal history, has become unbalanced and thus vulnerable. Any religious or
ethnic group includes people like that, and the post-9/11 environment hasn’t
made it easier for American Muslims to keep their balance. That’s why the
hawkish war-on-terrorism strategy — a global anti-jihad that creates nonstop
imagery of Americans killing Muslims — is so dubious.
Central to the debate over Afghanistan is the question of whether terrorists
need a “safe haven” from which to threaten America. If so, it is said, then we
must work to keep every acre of Afghanistan (and Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, etc.)
out of the hands of groups like the Taliban. If not — if terrorists can
orchestrate a 9/11 about as easily from apartments in Germany as from camps in
Afghanistan — then maybe never-ending war isn’t essential.
However you come out on that argument, the case of Nidal Hasan shows one thing
for sure: Homegrown American terrorists don’t need a safe haven. All they need
is a place to buy a gun.
Concerns about homegrown terrorism may sound like wild extrapolation from
limited data. After all, in the eight years since 9/11, none of America’s
several million Muslims had committed violence on this scale.
That’s a reminder that, contrary to right-wing stereotype, Islam isn’t an
intrinsically belligerent religion. Still, this sort of stereotyping won’t go
away, and it’s among the factors that could make homegrown terrorism a slowly
growing epidemic. The more Americans denigrate Islam and view Muslims in the
workplace with suspicion, the more likely the virus is to spread — and each
appearance of the virus in turn tempts more people to denigrate Islam and view
Muslims with suspicion. Whenever you have a positive feedback system like this,
an isolated incident can put you on a slippery slope.
And the Fort Hood shooting wasn’t the only recent step along that slope. Six
months ago a 24-year-old American named Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad — Carlos
Bledsoe before his teenage conversion to Islam — fatally shot a soldier outside
a recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark. ABC News reported, “It was not known
what path Muhammad ... had followed to radicalization.” Well, here’s a clue:
After being arrested he started babbling to the police about the killing of
Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were supposed to reduce the number of
anti-American terrorists abroad. It’s hardly clear that they’ve succeeded, and
they may have had the opposite effect. Meanwhile, on the other side of the
ledger, they’ve inspired homegrown terrorism — a small-scale incident in June, a
larger-scale incident this month. That’s only two data points, but I don’t like
the slope of the line connecting them.
Sept. 11, 2001, though a success for Osama bin Laden, was in the scheme of
things only a small tactical triumph; his grandiose aspirations go well beyond
the killing of a few thousand people and the destruction of some buildings.
Maybe he feels that our descent into the carnage of Iraq and Afghanistan has
moved him a bit closer to his goal. But if he succeeds in tearing our country
apart along religious and ethnic lines, he will truly be able to declare
Robert Wright, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, is the author,
most recently, of “The Evolution of God” and the editor in chief of the blog The
Who Created Major
Hasan?, NYT, 22.11.2009,
Lawmakers Call Ft. Hood Shootings
November 20, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID JOHNSTON
WASHINGTON — A Senate committee on Thursday opened the first public hearings
into the Fort Hood shootings, with several legislators asserting that the
incident in which 13 people were killed was a terrorist attack by a homegrown
extremist who may have slipped past law enforcement and military authorities.
Hours later at a Pentagon news conference, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates
announced that former Army Secretary Togo West and a former chief of naval
operations, Vernon Clark, would lead a broad Pentagon review of the
circumstances surrounding the shootings in which 13 people were killed and 43
Mr. Gates said the 45-day review would look into how the military identifies
service members who might be a threat to others and how well military bases are
equipped to respond to such incidents.
At the Congressional hearings, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut
independent who is chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Committee, said that the Nov. 5 shootings allegedly carried out by Maj. Nidal
Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was a “homegrown terrorist attack” and that
law enforcement and military agencies may have failed to act appropriately.
“The purpose of our investigation is to determine whether that attack could have
been prevented, whether the federal agencies and employees involved missed
signals or failed to connect the dots in a way that enabled Hasan to carry out
his deadly plan,” Mr. Lieberman said. “If we find such negligence we will make
recommendations to guarantee, as best we can, that they never occur again.”
But Mr. Lieberman’s hearing made only limited headway because the Obama
administration has refused his requests for witnesses from the F.B.I. and
Defense Department. Mr. Lieberman said he had spoken with Attorney General Eric
H. Holder Jr. and Mr. Gates, who told him they would cooperate with his inquiry,
but did not want to compromise the criminal investigation.
As a result, Mr. Lieberman proceeded with several non-government experts and
former officials, including Frances Fragos Townsend, formerly the homeland
security adviser to President George W. Bush. She expressed concern that
“political correctness,” and fear of intruding on Major Hasan’s free speech
rights, may have interfered with the sharing of information earlier this year,
when an F.B.I.-led counterterrorism team examined his e-mail exchanges with
Anwar al-Awlaki, a well-known radical cleric, but found nothing amiss.
The administration has irritated some lawmakers by trying to delay their
inquiries into the shootings, though some committees have postponed
investigations, such as the Senate Armed Services Committee. Instead, officials
from the Army and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have provided closed-door
briefings for some lawmakers.
Military and law enforcement agencies are also conducting their own internal
inquiries. The Army’s chief of staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., is organizing a
military panel to examine possible warning signs that were ignored by the Army
authorities at Fort Hood or the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where Major
Hasan was stationed until July. The review will encompass Major Hasan’s entire
Army career and focus on how to prevent such an attack in the future.
The F.B.I.’s Office of Professional Responsibility is also continuing its own
investigation, ordered by the agency’s director, Robert S. Mueller III. The Army
and the F.B.I. are reporting their findings to the White House, where the
National Security Council is leading its own inquiry. That investigation,
ordered by President Obama, is expected to conclude by the end of the month.
Lawmakers Call Ft. Hood Shootings ‘Terrorism’,
Portrait of 9/11 ‘Jackal’ Emerges
as He Awaits Trial
November 15, 2009
The New York Times
By MARK MAZZETTI
WASHINGTON — Not long after he was rousted from bed and seized in a predawn
raid in Pakistan in March 2003, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed gave his captors two
demands: He wanted a lawyer, and he wanted to be taken to New York.
After a nearly seven-year odyssey that took him to secret Central Intelligence
Agency jails in Europe and an American military prison in Cuba, Mr. Mohammed is
finally likely to get his wish.
He will be the most senior leader of Al Qaeda to date held to account for the
mass murder of nearly 3,000 Americans, facing trial in Manhattan while his boss,
Osama bin Laden, continues to elude a worldwide dragnet.
Yet the boastful, calculating and fiercely independent Mr. Mohammed has never
neatly fit the mold of Qaeda chieftain. He has little use for the high-minded
moralizing of some of his associates, and for years before the Sept. 11 attacks,
he refused to swear an oath of loyalty to Mr. bin Laden — figuring that if the
Qaeda leader canceled the Sept. 11 plot, he would not have to obey the order.
A detailed portrait of the life and worldview of Mr. Mohammed, 44, has emerged
in the years since his capture, filled in by declassified C.I.A. documents,
interrogation transcripts, the report of the Sept. 11 commission and his own
testimony at a military tribunal. And the most significant terrorism trial in
American history will be a grand stage for a man who describes himself as a
“jackal,” consumed with a zeal for perpetual battle against the United States.
“The trial will be more than just a soapbox for him,” said Jarret Brachman,
author of “Global Jihadism” and a terrorism consultant to several government
agencies. “It will be a chance for him to indict the entire system.”
“I’m sure he’s been waiting for this for a very long time,” Mr. Brachman added.
The last time Mr. Mohammed had such a platform was at a military hearing at
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where he delivered a rambling exposition on a number of
topics, including American history, citing Manifest Destiny and the
“Because war, for sure, there will be victims,” he said through a translator,
explaining that he had some remorse for the children killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I said I’m not happy that 3,000 people been killed in America. I feel sorry
even. I don’t like to kill children and the kids.”
But he added: “This is why the language of any war in the world is killing. I
mean the language of the war is victims.”
A Pakistani raised in Kuwait, Mr. Mohammed became important to Al Qaeda’s
mission in large part because of his background: he had an engineering degree
from an American university, spoke passable English and had a deeper
understanding of the West than any of Mr. bin Laden’s other lieutenants.
As Pakistanis in Kuwait, his relatives would have been considered second-class
citizens, but they had the means to send him to the United States for his
education. After attending secondary school in Kuwait, Mr. Mohammed was accepted
at Chowan College, a Baptist college in rural North Carolina where many foreign
students came to improve their English. He later transferred to North Carolina
A&T in Greensboro, where he earned a mechanical engineering degree in 1986.
Not long after graduation, he traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan to join the
mujahedeen fighters, who at the time were the beneficiaries of millions of
dollars from the C.I.A. in the fight against Soviet troops.
His experience in Afghanistan gave him a first taste of the battle against the
West that would come to consume his life.
Over the next decade, he plotted dozens of attacks against Western targets. At
his military tribunal in 2007, Mr. Mohammed recited a litany of conspiracies he
said he had had a hand in, including assassination plots against President Bill
Clinton and Pope John Paul II and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
But demonstrating his tendency toward grandiosity, he overstated his role in
many of the attacks, most terrorism experts believe, although they do not
dispute his central role in planning the Sept. 11 attacks.
It was not until the mid-1990s that American counterterrorism experts began to
understand Mr. Mohammed’s significance to the cause of global jihad, after a
thwarted plot to blow up 12 American commercial aircraft in midair. The
so-called Bojinka plot, hatched in a Manila apartment with his nephew, the World
Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, was Mr. Mohammed’s first inspiration for using
airliners as ballistic missiles against civilian targets, according to the 9/11
commission report and recently declassified C.I.A. documents.
In 1996, Mr. Mohammed traveled to Afghanistan to sell Mr. bin Laden on an idea:
simultaneously hijacking 10 aircraft and flying them into different prominent
civilian targets in the United States. He would be on the one plane not to
crash, and after the plane landed would emerge and deliver a speech condemning
American policy on Israel.
Mr. bin Laden dismissed the idea as impractical, but three years later he
changed his mind and summoned Mr. Mohammed to Kandahar to begin planning a
scaled-down version of the plot, which would eventually become the Sept. 11
Some terrorism experts said Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Mohammed had as much a rivalry
as a partnership. For instance, Mr. Mohammed dismissed the training Mr. bin
Laden oversaw at Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, believing that climbing on jungle
gyms and taking target practice with AK-47s was impractical. And like a
rebellious employee, Mr. Mohammed bristled at being micromanaged by the Qaeda
Yet the two men’s personalities complemented each other.
“You need the charismatic dreamers like bin Laden to make a movement
successful,” said Daniel Byman, a former intelligence analyst now at Georgetown
University. “But you also need operators like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed who can
actually get the job done.”
The purpose of the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Mohammed told his captors years later,
was to “wake the American people up.” By hitting civilian targets, he said, he
would shock Americans into recognizing the impact of their government’s actions
abroad, including supporting Israel in its fight against Palestinian militants.
Mr. Mohammed jealously guarded the details of the plot, telling only Mr. bin
Laden, one of his advisers and a few of the senior hijackers.
Even as he planned the attacks, he never committed himself to Al Qaeda by
pledging an oath, called “bayat,” to Mr. bin Laden. He was determined to keep
his independence from the Qaeda leader, and he later bragged to his C.I.A.
captors that he had disobeyed Mr. bin Laden on several occasions.
He resisted constant pressure from Mr. bin Laden to launch the attacks early,
and twice in 2001 told him the hijacking teams were not ready when Mr. bin Laden
ordered that the attacks begin.
Yet for all his professed wisdom about the United States, Mr. Mohammed later
admitted that he had completely misjudged what the American response to the
Sept. 11 attacks would be. He did not expect the American military campaign in
Afghanistan, and he did not anticipate the relentless hunt for Al Qaeda leaders
throughout South Asia and the Middle East.
He even misjudged his own fate. When he was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, he
thought he would soon be traveling to New York, where he would stand trial under
his indictment for the Bojinka plot.
Instead, he was hooded and spirited out of Pakistan by C.I.A. operatives, who
took him first to Afghanistan and eventually to a former Soviet military base in
Mr. Mohammed’s initial defiance toward his captors set off an interrogation plan
that would turn him into the central figure in the roiling debate over the
C.I.A’s interrogation methods. He was subjected 183 times to the near-drowning
technique called waterboarding, treatment that Attorney General Eric H. Holder
Jr. has called torture. But advocates of the C.I.A’s methods, including former
Vice President Dick Cheney, have said that the interrogation methods produced a
trove of information that helped dismantle Al Qaeda and disrupt potential
Until the attorney general announced on Friday that Mr. Mohammed would be tried
alongside four accused Sept. 11 co-conspirators in a Manhattan federal court
“just blocks away” from ground zero, his fate was far from certain. Indeed, the
defense might yet seek a change of the trial site.
In September 2006, along with other C.I.A. prisoners in secret overseas jails,
Mr. Mohammed was moved to the military prison at Guantánamo Bay. By then, he had
grown a long beard and had begun dressing in traditional Arabic clothing,
cultivating a pious image far different than his disheveled, befuddled
appearance after his capture in March 2003.
But even as the United States prepares to put him on trial for carrying out Al
Qaeda’s most successful operation, Mr. Mohammed is still considered somewhat of
an outcast inside the terrorist network, rarely if ever mentioned in public
pronouncements by Mr. bin Laden or his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri.
Some terrorism experts believe that Mr. Mohammed will always be considered too
secular — and too practical — to be completely accepted by the terrorist
network’s senior leaders.
“As opposed to the rest of these guys who sit around and talk, K.S.M. actually
got the job done,” said Mr. Brachman, the terrorism consultant.
“That’s what set him apart, and that’s what made him so scary.”
Portrait of 9/11
‘Jackal’ Emerges as He Awaits Trial, NYT, 15.11.2009,
Accused 9/11 Mastermind
to Face Civilian Trial in N.Y.
November 14, 2009
The New York Times
By CHARLIE SAVAGE
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Friday that it would prosecute
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks,
in a Manhattan federal courtroom, a decision that ignited a sharp political
debate but took a step toward resolving one of the most pressing terrorism
The decision, announced by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., could mean one
of the highest-profile and highest-security terrorism trials in history would be
set just blocks from where hijackers for Al Qaeda destroyed the World Trade
Center, killing nearly 3,000 people.
Mr. Holder said he would instruct prosecutors to seek death sentences for Mr.
Mohammed and four accused Sept. 11 co-conspirators who would be tried alongside
But while the civilian system would handle those cases, he said five other
detainees would be prosecuted before a military commission.
Those facing a military trial include Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of
planning Al Qaeda’s 2000 bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole in Yemen. All 10
detainees are being held at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
“Today’s announcement marks a significant step forward in our efforts to close
Guantánamo and to bring to justice those individuals who have conspired to
attack our nation and our interests abroad,” Mr. Holder said.
No decision has yet been made about where to hold the military trials, Mr.
Holder said. But the administration’s decision to bring five Sept. 11 detainees
onto United States soil for prosecution in the civilian legal system drew
immediate fire from members of Congress as well as relatives of victims and
neighbors of the federal courthouse.
They argued that Qaeda suspects did not deserve the protections afforded by the
American criminal justice system, that bringing them into the United States
would heighten the risk of another terrorist attack, that civilian trials
increase the risk of disclosing classified information, and that if the
detainees were acquitted they could be released into the population.
“We should not be increasing the danger of another terrorist strike against
Americans at home and abroad,” said Representative Peter T. King, Republican of
Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, questioned the wisdom of trying
terrorism suspects in civilian courts, arguing that military commissions were
more appropriate. But many other Democrats praised the move, noting that New
York had been the setting for other high-profile terrorism trials — including
the prosecution of Omar Abdel Rahman, the “blind sheik” who was convicted of
plotting to blow up the United Nations headquarters and other New York
“New York is not afraid of terrorists,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler,
Democrat of New York, adding, “Any suggestion that our prosecutors and our law
enforcement personnel are not up to the task of safely holding and successfully
prosecuting terrorists on American soil is insulting and untrue.”
Mr. Holder said he was confident that the men would be convicted, and other
administration officials said they had ample legal authority to keep classified
information secret. They also suggested that they could continue to detain
anyone deemed to be a “combatant” under Congress’s authorization to use military
force against Al Qaeda.
Mr. Mohammed and the other detainees would not be moved right away. Under a
recently enacted law, the administration must give Congress 45 days notice
before bringing any Guantánamo Bay detainee into the United States. Mr. Holder
said the administration would comply with that requirement as it seeks
indictments from a grand jury.
The decision to prosecute some detainees in civilian court was a major policy
shift from the Bush administration, which contended that suspected Al Qaeda
members should not be treated like — nor given the rights of — ordinary
criminals. It had charged the Sept. 11 defendants before a military commission
at Guantánamo, which has a more flexible standard for evidence.
Days after his inauguration, President Obama signed orders halting the Bush era
military commission trials and instructing officials to shut the prison within a
year. But it became clear that closing the facility would be easier said than
done, as political and legal pressures made it tough to move terrorism suspects
into prisons in the United States, and other countries refused to accept them.
In a speech in May, Mr. Obama said that some detainees would be tried in
civilian court, but that others could be prosecuted before a modified system of
military commissions. Congress recently enacted legislation adding safeguards to
Kenneth Wainstein, an assistant attorney general for national security during
the Bush administration, said he took “great comfort” from the Obama
administration’s decision to use commissions to handle detainees who cannot be
tried in civilian courts for reasons of evidence, security or applicable
“They made what I think for them was a difficult policy and political decisions
to retain military commissions — to fine-tune them but retain them,” he said,
characterizing Mr. Holder’s approach as a “good call.”
In his May speech, Mr. Obama also said some detainees who are deemed too
dangerous to release but too difficult to prosecute could be brought to the
United States for preventive detention — essentially holding them indefinitely
without trial. Mr. Holder on Friday offered no new details about that plan,
which has drawn fire from civil-liberties groups and local communities.
In July, a task force of Justice and Pentagon prosecutors developed a system for
evaluating what to do with each detainee, taking account of factors like where
offenses took place, the identity of victims, and the manner in which evidence
There was an internal debate over who would ultimately handle what is likely to
be among the most visible trials in years.
Some military prosecutors who had spent years building cases against the accused
Sept. 11 conspirators wanted to keep them.
New York prosecutors wanted them, too, as did those in the Eastern District of
Virginia, which has jurisdiction over the area surrounding the Pentagon, where
one of the planes struck.
Mr. Holder said that over the past few weeks, he had “personally reviewed” the
10 cases and made the final determination about which system would prosecute the
two sets of detainees. He also decided that the Sept. 11 prosecutorial team
would include attorneys from the Eastern District of Virginia.
Political considerations did not come into play in his decision, he said.
On the morning before Friday’s announcement, Mr. Holder called Mayor Michael
Bloomberg of New York and Gov. David Paterson of New York to inform them of his
decision. Mr. Bloomberg said that he supported having the trial in the city, and
that its police force could handle any security issues.
“It is fitting that 9/11 suspects face justice near the World Trade Center site
where so many New Yorkers were murdered,” Mr. Bloomberg said.
Civil-liberties and human-rights groups praised the decision to try the
detainees in federal court. Anthony Romero, executive director of the American
Civil Liberties Union, called the announcement “an enormous victory for the rule
He also announced that the A.C.L.U. and the National Association of Criminal
Defense Lawyers would shut down a joint effort to provide defense attorneys for
the detainees facing military commissions. They spent about $4 million on the
effort, he said.
But civil liberties groups expressed disappointment that the Obama
administration would continue to use military commissions — even with the
modifications. They said they would continue to press for all detainees to
receive regular trials or court-martials.
The prospect of prosecuting Mr. Mohammed and Mr. Nashiri has been particularly
difficult because their defense lawyers are expected to argue that they were
illegally tortured by the Central Intelligence Agency during their confinement.
Both were subjected to waterboarding, a controlled drowning technique.
About 215 detainees remain at Guantánamo, although about 90 have been cleared
for release. The task force is continuing to evaluate their cases and Mr. Holder
is expected to make more announcements are expected in coming weeks.
An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the conviction of
Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. Mr. Rahman was found guilty in 1995 of conspiracy to
blow up buildings in and around New York.
Accused 9/11 Mastermind
to Face Civilian Trial in N.Y., NYT, 14.9.1009,
F.B.I. Raid Kills Islamic Group Leader
October 29, 2009
The New York Times
By NICK BUNKLEY
Federal agents on Wednesday fatally shot a man they described as the leader
of a violent Sunni Muslim separatist group in Detroit.
The 53-year-old man, Luqman Ameen Abdullah, was killed in one of three raids
conducted in and around the city, in which six followers of his were taken into
Mr. Abdullah, whom the agents were trying to arrest in Dearborn on charges that
included illegal possession and sale of firearms and conspiracy to sell stolen
goods, refused to surrender and began firing at them from a warehouse, according
to a statement by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States
attorney’s office in Detroit. He was shot in the return fire, the statement
Mr. Abdullah, the authorities said, led a faction of a group called the Ummah,
meaning the Brotherhood, which advocates the establishment of a separate nation
within the United States governed by Islamic laws. He was one of 11 men from
Detroit and Ontario whom the authorities had charged with conspiracy to commit
Though none of the men were charged with terrorism, the statement said, “The 11
defendants are members of a group that is alleged to have engaged in violent
activity over a period of many years, and known to be armed.”
Seven of those charged, one of whom was already in prison, appeared in the
Federal District Court in Detroit after the raids; four had given up without
resistance at the warehouse where Mr. Abdullah was shot, the authorities said.
Three men remained at large.
A 45-page complaint says that Mr. Abdullah trained his followers in the use of
firearms, martial arts and sword fighting, and that he directed them to conduct
an “offensive jihad” against the United States government and law enforcement.
Mr. Abdullah was the imam of a mosque called Masjid al-Haqq, which was evicted
by city officials in January for failure to pay property taxes. During the
eviction, the police said, they found two guns and about 40 other weapons in Mr.
Abdullah’s apartment. As a felon previously convicted of assault and carrying a
concealed weapon, Mr. Abdullah was forbidden to possess firearms.
On Wednesday evening, The Detroit News reported on its Web site that one of its
photographers was assaulted after the raids by a group of men outside the home
where the mosque had relocated. The men attacked the photographer, Ricardo
Thomas, for about 30 seconds and damaged his camera equipment before going back
inside the home but left before the police arrived, said the paper, which
indicated that Mr. Thomas had not been seriously injured.
The Ummah’s top leader nationally is Jamil Abdullah al-Amin, formerly known as
H. Rap Brown, the black-power activist, who is serving a life sentence for
murdering a sheriff’s deputy in Georgia in 2000.
Federal authorities spent three years investigating the faction in Detroit,
according to the complaint. During that time, Mr. Abdullah told informants that
“America must fall” and that if the police ever tried to apprehend him, he would
“just strap a bomb on and blow up everybody.” To obtain bulletproof vests for
protection, he told followers, they should “shoot a cop in the head, and take
their vest,” the complaint states.
F.B.I. Raid Kills
Islamic Group Leader in Michigan, NYT, 29.10.2009,
Rush for Clue
Before Charges in Terror Case
October 1, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID JOHNSTON
and WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM
Federal prosecutors have said they possess a trove of evidence in their
terrorism case against Najibullah Zazi, a set of damning accusations laid out in
a powerful narrative. It begins with explosives training in Pakistan, followed
by purchases of bomb-making materials in Colorado, experiments in a hotel room
and a cross-country trip to New York, which the authorities feared might have
been the target of an attack.
But interviews with people briefed on the case — and an examination of court
papers filed by prosecutors — show that a great deal of the evidence presented
against Mr. Zazi was not the result of a lengthy investigation.
Instead, much of it was collected on the fly in the last two weeks, with
hundreds of F.B.I. agents, federal prosecutors and detectives rushing to fashion
a mosaic of details into a case that could be brought to court.
The review of the government’s presentation, which is largely contained in a
preliminary court document filed last week, suggests that many important facts
asserted by prosecutors were discovered after Mr. Zazi was told by a Queens imam
on Sept. 10 that investigators were looking for him. Moreover, several crucial
discoveries were made after Mr. Zazi, a 24-year-old airport shuttle bus driver,
had returned on Sept. 12 to Colorado, with his mission, if he had one, aborted.
Some store and hotel employees in the Denver area said F.B.I. agents did not ask
about Mr. Zazi’s purchases of beauty salon products that contained the raw
materials to make explosives or his stay in a hotel suite to mix them until
Sept. 17, five days after his return to Colorado.
The fast-moving nature of the investigation does not necessarily weaken the
evidence against Mr. Zazi, but it opens a window on what has become clearer
since he was indicted last week on a bombing-conspiracy count: that the
authorities were forced to react hastily after they began focusing on his
activities, and that they were operating in some measure in the dark over the
question of how advanced his alleged efforts at bomb-making had become.
On Wednesday, a government official briefed on the case, who like others spoke
on the condition of anonymity because much of the information in the case is
classified, said the initial information about a link between Mr. Zazi and
terrorism was received by counterterrorism analysts late in the summer. The
official indicated that analysts were concerned about Mr. Zazi, but the early
information did not make clear the nature of the threat he might represent.
As the days passed, investigators became more concerned, but huge gaps remained
in their understanding of Mr. Zazi’s activities and any plot. As a result,
making decisions about potentially critical investigative steps was difficult,
senior law enforcement officials said.
In one tense moment, investigators had to decide on Sept. 12 whether to allow
Mr. Zazi to return to Denver on a commercial flight from La Guardia Airport,
knowing he was somehow involved with terrorism but lacking what some officials
said was sufficient evidence to charge him with a crime.
In the end, Mr. Zazi was allowed to board the plane, but only after he was
carefully screened by transportation security personnel, and he was kept under
surveillance by dozens of F.B.I. agents, a number of whom posed as passengers,
Mr. Zazi pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Tuesday in Federal District
Court in Brooklyn, and he and his Denver lawyers have denied he had any ties to
Al Qaeda or any terrorist group.
The lawyer who appeared beside him in Brooklyn, J. Michael Dowling, said after
the hearing that prosecutors could not secure a conviction of his client on the
conspiracy charge based solely on the evidence presented in the detention
memorandum, because it contained no proof that he conspired with anyone to
commit a crime.
“I have not seen any evidence whatsoever of an agreement between Mr. Zazi and
anyone else, which is the essence of a conspiracy charge,” Mr. Dowling said.
Law enforcement officials have said that much remains unknown about what the
indictment says was a conspiracy to detonate bombs in the United States. They
have not identified any co-conspirators, and no one else has been charged with
The court document in which Brooklyn prosecutors outlined some of their evidence
suggests that the authorities were unaware of critical details even as F.B.I.
surveillance teams trailed Mr. Zazi from Denver to New York on Sept. 9. For
example, it appears that at the time they did not know he had brought with him a
computer that the authorities say contained detailed bomb-making notes.
But their concern was such that the F.B.I., along with New York police
detectives, threw up a huge web of physical and electronic surveillance to track
him in Queens, where he arrived the next afternoon.
Officials have said that at that point investigators still did not know that in
July and August Mr. Zazi and three other people had visited several beauty
supply stores in the Denver area, purchasing gallons of hydrogen peroxide and
acetone and leaving behind a trail of surveillance videos and transaction
And they did not know he had rented a hotel suite on the day he bought a dozen
32-ounce bottles of a beauty salon product containing hydrogen peroxide, known
as Ms. K Liquid 40 Volume. In the suite was a stove with an exhaust vent in
which agents later found traces of acetone, according to court records.
It seems that some of the information about Mr. Zazi’s actions resulted from the
days of voluntary interrogation he submitted to once he returned to Denver. He
consented to having his computer searched, among other things.
Prosecutors have also said he made at least one major admission during his
voluntary questioning: that he attended a Qaeda training camp during his trip to
Pakistan in 2008. But another of Mr. Zazi’s lawyers, Arthur Folsom, has denied
that his client made the admission over the course of roughly 28 hours of
interviews with the F.B.I., which Mr. Folsom sat in on.
Some officials have suggested that as Mr. Zazi began his two-day trip from
Denver, followed by surveillance vehicles as he drove at speeds of up to 100
miles per hour, the authorities did not know that his destination was New York.
After law enforcement officials obtained his car rental contract and found that
he planned to return the vehicle on Sept. 14 in New York, they were concerned,
officials have said.
Al Baker and Dan Frosch contributed reporting.
Rush for Clues Before
Charges in Terror Case, NYT, 1.10.2009,
Terrorism Suspect Pleads Not Guilty
September 30, 2009
The New York Times
By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM
A Denver man who federal officials say was at the center of a Qaeda plot to
set off bombs in the United States appeared in court in Brooklyn for the first
time on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to terrorism conspiracy charges.
The man, Najibullah Zazi, 24, who lived in New York for 10 years before moving
in January to Denver, where he drove an airport shuttle bus, was arrested there
on Sept. 20 on charges that he lied to the authorities during a terrorism
investigation. He was indicted four days later in Brooklyn on the bombing
conspiracy charges. The authorities said he had received training in Pakistan,
had bought the ingredients to build a bomb and had traveled to New York just
before Sept. 11.
The U.S. Marshals service flew him to the New York area on Friday after a Denver
judge ordered him held without bail, dismissed the false statement charge
against him and ordered him transferred to Brooklyn to face the more serious
A slim man with a beard rimming his long face, Mr. Zazi wore a blue prison smock
and pants and orange slip-on prison sneakers. He sat next to his lawyer in front
of United States District Court Judge Raymond J. Dearie. His lawyer, J. Michael
Dowling, entered the plea of not guilty for him.
When the single-count bombing conspiracy indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn on
Thursday, federal prosecutors in the case filed a legal memorandum seeking Mr.
Zazi’s detention, calling him a risk of flight and a danger to the community.
On Tuesday, the prosecutor in the case, Jeffrey H. Knox, said evidence obtained
under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would be used against Mr. Zazi.
Outside the courthouse, Mr. Dowling said the government would have to produce
one of Mr. Zazi’s co-conspirators in order to be able to convict him of that
charge. So far, that has not happened, although court papers filed by the
government refer to Mr. Zazi as having three confederates.
Federal law enforcement officials have characterized the plot as the most
serious Qaeda threat in years.
The detention memo in the case in some measure sets out the evidence the
government says it will present against Mr. Zazi at trial. It follows him from a
four-month sojourn to Pakistan late last year, during which prosecutors say he
received explosives and weapons training, to his purchases — and those of the
three confederates — of beauty salon supplies containing the chemicals needed to
make home-brewed explosives. The memo describes his efforts on Sept. 6 and 7 in
a Denver hotel suite kitchen to make the explosives and a subsequent trip to New
York on the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Federal authorities have said they have not identified his target or pinned down
the timing of any attack, and some investigators have now theorized that his
effort to make the explosives, triacetone triperoxide or TATP, was part of a
But his intentions were far from clear on Sept. 9 when he left Denver in a
rental car bound for Queens, ultimately setting off a frenzy of investigative
activity in New York.
An effort by the Police Department’s Intelligence Division to enlist the
assistance of a Queens imam, a source they had used in the past, to develop
information about Mr. Zazi backfired when the imam, according to federal
officials, warned Mr. Zazi.
With their hand forced, federal authorities executed four search warrants and,
according to several officials, lost their ability to continue to track the
movements of Mr. Zazi and his associates, and thus learn more about their
movements, their plans and their confederates.
Terrorism Suspect Pleads
Not Guilty, NYT, 30.9.2009,
Feds: Zazi Trips,
to NY Terror Threat
September 27, 2009
Filed at 3:00 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times
NEW YORK (AP) -- It was midsummer in suburban Denver when an unassuming,
bearded man pushed a red shopping cart between shelves stacked with hair
coloring and nail polish remover.
By the time Najibullah Zazi checked into a nearby hotel suite with a kitchen in
September, he had at least 18 bottles of peroxide-based hair lighteners and
pages of notes for how to turn the beauty products into bombs, authorities say.
Prosecutors say the otherwise mundane movements of the 24-year-old airport
shuttle driver -- who sold Wall Streeters coffee for years from his cart in
downtown Manhattan and returned to the spot, not far from ground zero, on his
recent two-day trip to the city -- masked a dire terrorist threat.
The peroxide purchases, Zazi's prayer at a local mosque on the eve of his
planned attack and a cross-country trip back to his Queens neighborhood,
authorities say, are steps in his evolution from a struggling immigrant who was
a teenager on Sept. 11, 2001, to a full-blown terrorist plotting to bomb the
city on the attacks' eighth anniversary.
Many questions about charges that Zazi became a terrorist over the past year --
and who was helping him -- remain unanswered. Prosecutors refer to ''others''
who accompanied him on an August 2008 flight to Pakistan for terrorism training,
by which time he had come to authorities' attention, and who shopped with him in
Aurora, Colo., for chemicals that could be turned into bombs. But neither
accomplices nor explosives has turned up; Zazi's father and a Queens imam face
charges only of lying to terrorism investigators, and they deny the allegations.
Zazi, jailed on charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction,
publicly proclaimed his innocence in recent days to anyone who asked. His
plainspoken defense to The Associated Press outside his Colorado home days
before his arrest: ''I'm an airport driver, and that's all I can say.''
Zazi ''maintains that he was not part of a terrorist cell,'' his attorney Arthur
Folsom said Friday.
But information from court papers, interviews with friends and relatives and an
e-mail trail stretching from Pakistan to Colorado portray a terrorism suspect
who until last year had led an unremarkable, working-class immigrant's life.
Zazi was born in Afghanistan in 1985, moving with his parents and siblings to
neighboring Pakistan at age 7, his family said. At 14 -- two years before the
terrorist attack on the World Trade Center -- he moved to America, settling in
Queens to join family members who made livings as cab drivers and operators of
curbside coffee stands.
He lived in a six-story, red-brick apartment building around the corner from a
mosque, where friends said he was a fixture before and after leaving public high
school. His classmate Naiz Khan said they played football and pool a few times
there. They prayed at the mosque and worked as coffee cart vendors.
Zazi used to make fun of Khan for being ''cheap,'' he said, and said he wasn't
spending enough money.
Over a few months in early 2008, Zazi opened dozens of credit card accounts and
racked up thousands of dollars in debt, according to court records, making
purchases at Macy's, Radio Shack and Best Buy, among others. He filed for
bankruptcy with more than $50,000 in debt in March, a couple of months after
leaving the city for Denver.
He spent several months of the past year in the Peshawar region of Pakistan,
where his aunt said he had a bride whom he married several years ago.
Papers filed in federal court in Brooklyn say that Zazi and unidentified
associates took Qatar Airlines Flight 84 out of Newark, N.J., to Pakistan a year
ago in August; while he was there, prosecutors say, he e-mailed himself
handwritten notes on how to make and handle bombs.
Authorities say Zazi told the FBI in Colorado that instead of bonding with his
family, he went to a training camp and learned about explosives -- specifically
the homemade bombs used on the mass transit attack in London in 2005 and by shoe
bomber Richard Reid, who tried to destroy a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001 with
explosives hidden in his shoes.
The instructions specifically noted that two key ingredients -- acetone and
hydrogen peroxide -- were found in nail polish remover and hair salon products.
Shortly after returning from Pakistan in January, Zazi moved in with relatives
in Aurora. He later moved into another Aurora home with his father and got his
license to drive the airport van.
Khan said Zazi called him and happily talked about a hassle-free life, that he
had no trouble finding parking.
''He was happy there,'' said Khan, who was questioned for hours by the FBI after
Zazi stayed with him.
Between shuttling passengers to and from the airport, Zazi continued his
self-education in terrorism, papers said.
He bookmarked a Web site on his computer for ''lab safety for hydrochloric
acid,'' one of three ingredients that make up triacetone triperoxide, or TATP,
the explosive used in London, court papers said, and searched a beauty salon Web
site for peroxide.
Zazi and at least three others scoured the Aurora shops for an unusually high
number of peroxide and acetone products, prosecutors said. In July and August,
the dark-haired man bought six bottles of Liquid Developer Clairoxide and
several more of Ms. K Liquid 40 Volume, peroxide-based hair dye products.
On Sept. 6, Zazi took some of his products into a Colorado hotel room, outfitted
with a stove on which he later left acetone residue, authorities said. He
repeatedly sought another person's help cooking up the bomb, ''each
communication more urgent in tone than the last,'' the papers said.
The FBI was listening to Zazi and becoming increasingly concerned as the
attacks' anniversary, and a scheduled visit by President Barack Obama to New
York, approached, officials said.
Their concern grew on Sept. 8 when Zazi got back on his computer, court papers
say, located a Web site for a home improvement store in Queens and clicked
repeatedly on a listing for Kleen Strip Green Safer Muriatic Acid, another name
for hydrochloric acid.
Agents were tracking Zazi the next day when he rented a car and drove 1,800
miles to the city, where Khan said he met him praying at the mosque and learned
he had come to fix a permit problem with his coffee cart. Zazi spent the night
at Khan's house, blocks from where he grew up.
Zazi, while under heavy surveillance, was pulled over on the George Washington
Bridge as he crossed from New Jersey to Manhattan and agreed to what he was told
was a random drug search. Investigators who later towed Zazi's car captured his
laptop's hard drive and bomb-making notes, prosecutors said.
At Khan's house, a scale that authorities said could have measured the chemicals
was found with Zazi's fingerprints on it, court papers said.
The FBI was listening when Zazi told a Queens imam -- a police source in the
community -- that his car's disappearance made him fear he was being watched.
The imam later tipped Zazi off, saying police had come around and asked
questions, a criminal complaint says.
''Trust me, that is a good sign,'' said the imam, Ahmad Wais Afzali, according
to the recording. ''The bad sign is for them coming to you guys and picking you
Zazi was already back in Denver -- cutting a five-day trip short and flying back
on Sept. 12, after making a quick visit to old customers at the coffee cart
around the corner from Wall Street, and less than a mile from the trade center
Three days later, he posed for pictures in his doorway in Aurora and said he
wasn't a terrorist. He had spent Sept. 11 in New York City and flew back home,
''And,'' he added, ''I have nothing else to say.''
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Colleen Long and David
B. Caruso in New York, AP writer P. Solomon Banda in Denver and AP Television
reporter Bonny Ghosh in New York.
Feds: Zazi Trips,
Shopping Led to NY Terror Threat, NYT, 27.9.2009,
Terror Plot Focus
Was 9 / 11 Anniversary
September 26, 2009
Filed at 1:09 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
DENVER (AP) -- Claims that an Afghan immigrant was on the verge of unleashing
a terrorist attack on New York City on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks
are missing a key element: explosives or the chemicals allegedly used to make
them, the man's attorney said.
FBI agents have yet to find those elements and connect them to Najibullah Zazi,
charged with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction in a plot authorities
say was aimed at commuter trains, attorney Arthur Folsom told a federal judge in
U.S. Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer ultimately ordered Zazi's transfer to New
York, and Zazi was taken there by federal marshals.
''No traces of any kind of chemical was found in his vehicle,'' Folsom said of
an FBI search of Zazi's car.
A federal prosecutor argued that Zazi was planning an attack to coincide with
the 9/11 anniversary.
''The evidence suggests a chilling, disturbing sequence of events showing the
defendant was intent on making a bomb and being in New York on 9/11, for
purposes of perhaps using such items,'' prosecutor Tim Neff told Shaffer.
Zazi was stopped by police on Sept. 10 as he entered New York, and he dropped
his plans for an attack once he realized that law enforcement was on to him,
Prosecutors said Zazi received explosives training from al-Qaida in Pakistan and
returned to the U.S. bent on building a bomb.
Over the summer, he and three associates went from one beauty-supply store to
another in a Denver suburb buying chemicals to make explosives like those that
killed dozens of people in transit bombings in London and Madrid, investigators
At least three and possibly more of his accomplices remain at large, and
investigators have fanned out across New York in pursuit of suspects.
Authorities also issued a flurry of terrorism warnings for sports complexes,
hotels and transit systems.
A law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the
ongoing investigation said associates of Zazi visited Colorado to help him buy
the chemicals using stolen credit cards before returning to New York.
Another law enforcement official said that authorities had been especially
worried about Zazi's Sept. 10 visit to the city because it coincided with a
visit by President Barack Obama. Police considered arresting him right away. The
official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation continues.
Police have been especially active in the neighborhood in Queens where Zazi
visited during his New York trip, staying at an apartment with a group of cab
drivers and food cart operators he knows.
Folsom said prosecutors lack direct evidence that Zazi was involved in
bomb-making, finding none of those materials in Zazi's car, his Aurora, Colo.,
apartment or apartments Zazi visited in New York. FBI agents said they found
Zazi's fingerprints on a scale and batteries during a search in Queens, but
Folsom said those items have no connection to the alleged plot.
''I think they were hoping that people would just jump to conclusions,'' Folsom
said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Zazi ran a coffee cart in Manhattan before moving to Denver this year and
getting a job as an airport shuttle driver.
FBI raids beginning Sept. 14 rattled a quiet, predominantly Asian neighborhood
in Queens. Muslim men said dozens of FBI agents ransacked their homes and
questioned them for hours, sometimes taking DNA samples and prints from their
The FBI has also been visiting beauty shops and home-improvement stores in
Colorado and New York for details about the alleged bomb-making purchases.
Court papers say that during the summer, Zazi and three unidentified associates
bought ''unusually large quantities'' of hydrogen peroxide and acetone -- a
flammable solvent found in nail-polish remover -- from Denver-area beauty supply
stores. The products had names such as Ion Sensitive Scalp Developer and Ms. K
Liquid 40 Volume.
Zazi also searched the Web site of a Queens home-improvement store for another
ingredient needed to make a compound called TATP (triacetone triperoxide), the
explosives used by shoe bomber Richard Reid and the terrorists who carried out
the London bombings that killed more than 50 people, according to court papers.
Zazi intensified his bomb-making experiments this month, cooking up substances
in a Colorado hotel suite he rented on Sept. 6-7 before driving 1,600 miles to
New York over the course of about two days. He became aware that law enforcement
was onto him when he was stopped entering the city on Sept. 10, causing the plot
Neff said Zazi ''was in the throes of making a bomb and attempting to perfect
his formulation'' and seeking information on how to use flour to make the
explosive suitable for transporting.
''He was asking for information on flour and how to get the contents right,''
Neff said in court.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority -- which runs New York City's subway
system, buses and commuter rails -- declined to comment on the revelation of a
Sept. 11-timed plot. It reissued a statement from earlier in the week that it
has boosted its police presence at ''key commuter rail locations'' since the
terror threat became public.
Federal agents and police officers in New York visited up to 200 locations a day
in the area during the probe, including beauty-supply stores, extended-stay
hotels that have rooms with kitchens, hardware stores, truck rental agencies and
Zazi was scheduled to appear in federal court Tuesday in Brooklyn.
A government request to deny bail laid out a chronology of the alleged scheme,
which prosecutors said had been in the works for more than a year.
On Sept. 6 and 7, Zazi checked into a suite at a Colorado hotel with a kitchen
and a stove, government papers say, and tried to contact an unidentified
associate ''seeking to correct mixtures of ingredients to make explosives.''
''Zazi repeatedly emphasized in the communications that he needed the answers
right away,'' the papers said, adding that each communication was ''more urgent
than the last.''
Beauty supply store employees in New York and the Denver suburbs said
authorities had been asking whether anyone had come in buying a lot of hydrogen
peroxide or acetone.
At Beauty Supply Warehouse in suburban Denver, Paul Phillips said a co-worker
told investigators he had sold chemicals to Zazi. Company President Karan Hoss
said the firm turned over security video of a man matching Zazi's description to
the FBI. A check of sales found that someone bought a dozen 32-ounce bottles of
a hydrogen peroxide product in July. More was purchased in late August, Hoss
Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Colleen Long in New York, Devlin Barrett
in Washington, D.C., and Catherine Tsai in Colorado contributed to this report.
Prosecutor: Terror Plot
Focus Was 9 / 11 Anniversary, NYT, 26.9.2009,
Guantanamo Might Not Close
September 26, 2009
Filed at 3:10 a.m. ET
The Newx York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House acknowledged for the first time Friday
that it might not be able to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay by
January as President Barack Obama has promised.
Senior administration officials told The Associated Press that difficulties in
completing the lengthy review of detainee files and resolving thorny legal and
logistical questions mean the president's self-imposed January deadline may
slip. Obama remains as committed to closing the facility as he was when, as one
of his first acts in office, he pledged to shut it down, said the officials, who
spoke on condition of anonymity in order to more freely discuss the sensitive
issue. They said the White House still was hoping to meet the deadline through a
The prison in Cuba was created by former President George W. Bush after the
Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a landing spot for suspected al-Qaida,
Taliban and foreign fighters captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere. But it has
since become a lightning rod of anti-U.S. criticism around the globe. There are
approximately 225 detainees still being held at the prison.
Obama promised soon after taking office -- and many times since -- to close the
prison, arguing that doing so is crucial to restoring America's image in the
world and to creating a more effective anti-terror approach.
But eight months after Obama's pledge and with only four months to go before the
January deadline, a number of difficult issues remain unresolved. They include
establishment of a new set of rules for military trials, finding a location for
a new prison to house detainees and finding host countries for those who can be
This has prompted top Republicans in Congress to demand that the prison stay
open for now, saying it is too dangerous to rush the closure. Even Democrats
defied the president, saying they needed more information about Obama's plan
before supporting it. Congress is for now denying Obama funds to shut down
After Obama's promise, administration officials and lawyers began to reviewing
the files on each detainee. At issue: which prisoners can be tried, and whether
to do so in military or civilian courts; which can be released to other nations;
and -- the hardest question -- which are too dangerous or their cases too
compromised by lack of evidence that they must be held indefinitely.
A major complaint surfaced immediately -- that the Bush administration had not
established a consolidated repository of intelligence and evidence on each
prisoner. It took longer than expected to build such a database, the officials
said, because information was scattered throughout agencies and inconsistent.
That database has now been completed, and prosecutors have also concluded their
initial review of the detainees and recommended to the Justice Department an
unspecified number who appear eligible for prosecution, the officials told the
AP. The Justice Department and the Pentagon now will work together to determine
which prisoners should be tried in military courts and which in civilian ones,
the officials said. They would not provide a number recommended for prosecution
since it could change.
The decision on which prisoners will be prosecuted had been expected by Nov. 16,
and the officials said they are on track to meet that goal. Navy Capt. John F.
Murphy, the chief military prosecutor, had said previously that about 65 cases
are viable for prosecution.
Meantime, Obama has kept pending several war-crimes trials that were already in
progress when he took office. The administration has asked judges to suspend all
proceedings to give it time to complete its review of cases.
Also, Obama has adopted some changes to the military tribunals, but wants
Congress to adopt more to address criticism that the courts favor the
prosecution and will not withstand constitutional challenges. That legislation
is moving forward on Capitol Hill, but is not complete.
The government also must decide where inside the U.S. to move the detainees, and
that highly fraught choice still has not been made, the officials said. A
maximum security prison in Standish, Mich., and the military penitentiary at
Fort Leavenworth, Kan., are under consideration as possible locations. Whatever
facility is chosen, the Pentagon will have to make improvements necessary to
safely house the prisoners.
The officials noted that the U.S. prison system already holds 216 people
convicted as international terrorists.
Another front in the effort to close the prison is the problem of finding
countries willing to take in those detainees deemed eligible for release. The
administration so far has transferred 14 prisoners to other countries, the
The administration will not ''voluntarily release'' any detainee inside the
United States, the officials said. But this does not address what might happen
if any of the detainees who are tried are found innocent -- a subject of
considerable angst about Obama's plans, both in Congress and among the public.
However, the U.S. could -- and likely would -- seek to transfer those people to
other countries in that case, as none is a U.S. citizen.
AP Sources: Guantanamo
Might Not Close by January, NYT, 26.9.2009,
From Smiling Coffee Vendor
to Terror Suspect
September 26, 2009
The New York Times
By MICHAEL WILSON
This article was reported by Simon Akam, Alison Leigh Cowan, Michael Wilson
and Karen Zraick, and written by Mr. Wilson.
For years, he was a fixture in Lower Manhattan, as regular as the sunrise.
Every morning, Najibullah Zazi would be there on Stone Street with his pastries
and his coffee, his vending cart anchored to the sidewalk.
For many on Wall Street — young, old, all in a hurry, the charging bulls of
Bowling Green — his was the first hello of the day. Affable and rooted, he lived
for 10 years in the same apartment with his family in Flushing, Queens. His
father drove a cab for more than 15 years.
He was, in other words, no brooding outcast, no sheltered, suggestible loner
raised in a closed community.
He was the smiling man who remembered a customer liked his coffee large, light
and sweet. He had a “God Bless America” sign on his cart. He was the doughnut
But prosecutors say Mr. Zazi, 24, who worked blocks from ground zero, was just
as furtive an operative as the Sept. 11 hijackers when he traveled to Pakistan
last year for terrorism training and returned to the United States with a plan
to build bombs using beauty supplies and backpacks.
In fact, law enforcement officials, who fret about how to seal the borders of a
free society from terrorists, say they find in Mr. Zazi a particularly harrowing
challenge: a homegrown operative who travels freely, who is skilled with people,
who passed an airport employee background check, who understands the patterns
and nuance of American life so well that he gave multiple interviews to
journalists for whom access and openness rarely seem like a disguise.
“This is one of the best countries in the world,” he told a reporter by
telephone on Sept. 14 after the F.B.I. had identified him as a terrorism
suspect. “It gives you every single right.”
Mr. Zazi, to date, has merely been charged, not proven guilty. And vast passages
of his life remain unexplored, facts and experiences that could help explain his
embrace of violence or undercut the government’s disturbing portrait of him.
Even if he is proven to be the aspiring terrorist the government asserts, how
and why he became one may not be understood for months, if ever. The suspects
who have been charged with terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks were fueled by a
variety of motivations and influences, and often a mix of them: politics,
family, economic deprivation, social alienation, the work of a terrorist
recruiter. Religion sometimes provides a general framework and sense of
identity, but other factors and events frequently drive the transformation.
For nearly two weeks, though, the story of Mr. Zazi, now one of national
interest, has lacked almost any details. A tour of where Mr. Zazi worked and
lived, in New York and in Colorado, and interviews with investigators, the Zazi
family and friends, provides something of a fuller picture, one filled with the
routines of life in Queens but also flecked with hints of his emerging anger,
contradictions and puzzles.
Mr. Zazi is both an Afghan immigrant steeped in the traditions of Islam and a
kid from the streets of Queens, where his family moved in the early 1990s.
As a teenager, he often carried two things, his basketball and his prayer mat,
his friends say. He grew a dark, wiry beard and began wearing tunics several
years ago, just as he was applying for his first of two Macy’s credit cards.
He was a janitor and a worshiper at a mosque that split several years ago over
the question of its members’ loyalty to the Taliban after the Sept. 11 attacks.
He was a devoted fan of gadgets who married, by arrangement, his 19-year-old
cousin, who lives with their two children in Pakistan.
Last summer, the authorities say, he shopped in Denver for hair supplies to
build bombs with. If he did so, he was also engaged in something much more
mundane: credit counseling to survive a bankruptcy he had declared in New York.
It is impossible at this moment to know what it all adds up to. But the details
that are being learned create the sense of a far more complicated man than the
coffee cart vendor many people saw. Certainly the government’s charges have
painted the outlines of a man Mr. Zazi’s family is having a very difficult time
reconciling with the Najib they knew.
Habib Rasooli, a businessman in Queens and a relative of Mr. Zazi’s, said they
had no clue to the terrorist leanings, if they were real.
“If the guy was involved in all this stuff, I say, ‘O.K., bring him to justice,’
” Mr. Rasooli said. “I’d bring him myself.”
Mr. Zazi was born on Aug. 10, 1985, in a village in the Paktia region of eastern
Afghanistan. He is a middle child with two sisters and two brothers, and his
family name is shared by a tribe, one of some 500 in the region.
The family moved to the Peshawar area of Pakistan in 1991 or 1992, when Mr. Zazi
was about 7, he has said. The broader area has since been identified as “ground
zero in the U.S. jihadist war,” according to a federal complaint against Mr.
Zazi, and home to many Qaeda operatives.
Mr. Zazi’s father, Mohammed Wali Zazi, came to the United States around 1991,
relatives said, and began driving a yellow taxi, working 12-hour shifts so he
could afford to bring his family over several years later. The family rented a
two-bedroom apartment on Parsons Boulevard, near the home of the younger Mr.
Zazi’s aunt and uncle.
In many ways, Flushing must have seemed like another planet to a teenager raised
in tribal villages. But several of the family’s neighbors came from the same
region, and many prayed together at the Masjid Hazrat Abu Bakr, a large Afghan
mosque, which was near their house.
Najib entered Flushing High School, and played billiards with friends and
basketball with other Afghan boys in the yard at Public School 214. He loved
video games and all things technological, and that grew into a fascination with
cellphones and computers, said a friend, Ahmad Zaraei. He played the lottery.
Najib was not a strong student, and he dropped out before graduating, friends
said. Mr. Rasooli, the elder Mr. Zazi’s step-uncle, said it bluntly: “He was a
dumb kid, believe me,” but one who was dedicated to making money and helping his
Mr. Zaraei said, “He was basically a left shoulder for his father.”
The younger Mr. Zazi also spent a lot of time at the mosque, even volunteering
his time as a janitor there. He turned 16 a month and a day before Sept. 11,
2001. One acquaintance who gave only his first name, Rahul, recalled discussing
the attacks three years later and Mr. Zazi saying: “I don’t know how people
could do things like this. I’d never do anything like that.”
Life at the mosque was disrupted after the attacks. Worshipers there, a large
white structure with a turquoise minaret on 33rd Avenue, became deeply divided.
When the imam, Mohammed Sherzad, spoke out against the Taliban and Osama bin
Laden, pro-Taliban members of the mosque revolted, praying in the basement or
the parking lot, and eventually ousted the imam, who opened a smaller mosque
It is unclear where, in this heated time, the Zazis fell, though the imam said
in an interview that he saw several members of the Zazi family, including Najib,
praying in the parking lot with those who opposed him.
Friends said that Najib later came to love videos on YouTube that featured Zakir
Naik, a physician in India and a prominent speaker on Islam. Dr. Naik has been a
controversial figure among Muslims and has been criticized for endorsing
polygamy and Islamic criminal law, wherein the hands of a thief are chopped off,
calling it “the most practical.”
To Mr. Zazi, “he was his inspiration,” his friend Mr. Zaraei said. “He just
Dr. Naik does not preach violence, and neither did Mr. Zazi, ever, said Farooq
Jaji, whose brother married the elder Mr. Zazi’s sister. He said that he spoke
many times with Mr. Zazi about world affairs and that the young man consistently
said he found terrorism to be at odds with the teachings of Islam.
But prayer was important to him, said Sunwoo Sik, who owned a Flushing food
market where Mr. Zazi worked for a year or so.
He had just walked in one day after seeing a “cashier wanted” sign in the window
of Mr. Sik’s store, the Norion Super Market.
“He said he didn’t want to go to college,” Mr. Sik said. “He wanted to make
money.” He often came to work with a basketball, and ate halal meat and spicy
rice every day for lunch, pausing each evening for his faith.
“Every day at 5, he’d go down to the basement and pray,” Mr. Sik said. “He’d lay
out cardboard and pray.”
In 2005, he quit. His father now ran a coffee cart, which his sister and
brother-in-law had been operating in Lower Manhattan. Now it was Mr. Zazi’s
turn. He took a 15-hour course in food handling to get a city license.
Mr. Sik said Mr. Zazi told him he was leaving “because the coffee cart paid more
The Cart Crew
The vendors gather before dawn in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, stocking
their coffee carts with pastries and rolls that they generally buy from the
owner of the Guernsey Street garage, from whom they also rent space.
Many of them are Afghan immigrants. Some own their carts. Others lease them. Mr.
Zazi was there every morning for years, preparing his father’s cart and towing
it to the financial district, where he set up shop before the sun rose.
“He was well spoken,” said John Walters, a customer who works nearby. “He always
said good morning to everyone. He used to memorize what everyone needed in the
During this period, around 2006, Mr. Zazi flew to Pakistan and took a wife, whom
he hoped to later move to New York. He returned in 2007 for another visit, said
his lawyer, Arthur Folsom.
Each time, he went back to work with his coffee cart. Over time, Mr. Zazi’s
appearance shifted, customers noted, to that of a devout Muslim. He grew his
beard long, started carrying prayer beads and occasionally wore tunics instead
of his Western-style outfits, friends and customers said.
“At first he wasn’t that much into religion,” said his friend Mr. Zaraei. “That
At some point, several neighbors and customers said, they felt something change.
Mr. Zazi was not as friendly.
A Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker, John Rodes, 53, who bought his
coffee from Mr. Zazi, said a co-worker recounted to him that Mr. Zazi had tried
to sell her a Koran. “He did it more than once,” Mr. Rodes said.
Erika Moran, 26, who works in investor relations, was a regular at his cart
until last summer, she said.
“I got in an argument with him one day,” Ms. Moran said. “You knew he was very
religious, to say the least. He asked if I was happy. I said yes. He told me I
could not be happy. He was speaking in general. He said, ‘You people cannot be
happy, with your money.’ ”
The stirrings of a move toward violence, or something much more inconsequential?
Either way, money certainly was not making Mr. Zazi happy. He was spending more
than he earned, opening new credit cards and not paying his bills.
In April 2008, according to bankruptcy records, he began using a Discover card.
May 2008: a Shell card. June 2008: five new credit cards. July 2008: three more,
including ones from Sony and Radio Shack. August 2008: two more.
He would later report that his monthly expenses were $1,108, including $450 in
rent and $390 for food. His stated income was only $800.
Off to Pakistan
He said he was going to see his wife, as he did every year. On Aug. 28, 2008,
Mr. Zazi and some others boarded a plane in Newark and flew through Switzerland
and Qatar to Peshawar, according to court records.
The day he left, he had signed his cart over to another vendor to operate. It
was a lease, and the Zazi family would receive payments of some kind.
Little is known about his time in Pakistan, except what the authorities say he
has admitted: that he was trained in weapons and explosives. Insight into such
training camps was gained in July when Bryant Neal Vinas of Long Island
described his training in Peshawar to F.B.I. interrogators.
The first course was an introduction to the AK-47 and other guns, followed by a
15-day course in how to make suicide belts. Then rocket-propelled grenades.
It is not clear precisely when federal authorities first encountered Mr. Zazi or
how long they have been tracking his movements. On Jan. 15, after five months
away, Mr. Zazi flew back to New York, arriving at Kennedy International Airport.
His financial woes were waiting for him. Five days after his return, he took
part in a telephone counseling session with a representative of GreenPath Debt
Solutions. He would file for bankruptcy two months later.
Then he abruptly moved to Colorado, where his aunt and uncle lived, in Aurora, a
suburb on Denver’s prairie-fringed flank, where newcomers find homes new and
cheaper than in the city.
“Life is a little bit easier there,” said Mr. Jaji, his relative. “The living is
cheaper.” Mr. Jaji said he had spoken to the elder Mr. Zazi about two months ago
and was told: “We are happy. The children are happy.”
Mr. Zazi hit town hungry for work, again drifting toward a job generally filled
by immigrants: driving a shuttle van at Denver International Airport. His
shuttle carried 15 passengers.
He applied for a limousine license, underwent an airport background check and
began driving a van for a company called Big Sky, then for a company called ABC
Mr. Zazi quickly drew three tickets for moving violations, but his coffee-cart
training paid off: drivers competing with him for passengers said he was
friendly and hard-working as he jockeyed to fill his van. “He talked to
everyone,” said Rachid Zouhair, who worked with him.
In March, Mr. Zazi filed for bankruptcy. He said on the application that he was
unmarried and listed $51,000 in debts.
Several months later, his uncle said he kicked him out of their house, amid tiny
stick trees on East Ontario Drive, for not paying rent. Mr. Zazi moved to an
apartment complex two miles away, where his parents would join him at the end of
Federal agents, who have tracked Mr. Zazi for weeks, perhaps longer, provided
their version of how he spent some of that time in their court filings. The work
with bomb materials would not take place at Mr. Zazi’s home, according to
federal investigators, but in a hotel suite he rented in Aurora. They say
chemical residue they found in the kitchen there indicates he tried to heat up
the beauty supplies to help convert them into a bomb.
He had bought some bomb ingredients in beauty supply stores, the authorities
said, after viewing instructions on his laptop on how to build such a bomb. When
an employee of the Beauty Supply Warehouse asked about the volume of materials
he was buying, he remembered Mr. Zazi answering, “I have a lot of girlfriends.”
As he was completing his purchases, he was also completing his credit
counseling, a requirement to have his bankruptcy discharged. A counselor signed
the certificate for GreenPath on Aug. 13. Four days later, the bankruptcy case
He would return to the Aurora hotel on Sept. 6, apparently frantic for advice on
how to complete the bomb-building, investigators contend. Then he rented a car
from Hertz on Sept. 8. The next day, he packed his laptop into the car and
started the ignition.
F.B.I. agents were watching. New York was 1,800 miles away. He drove through the
night, arriving on Sept 10. Investigators say he may have hoped to set off bombs
here. But he flew home on Sept. 12, perhaps alarmed to learn that the
authorities were tracking his movements.
Mr. Zazi explained his trip to New York differently, telling reporters he had
come back to clear up issues regarding his coffee cart.
He was certainly there, at the cart, on the morning of Sept. 11, eight blocks
from the hole that had once been the World Trade Center. Old customers saw him.
“He was standing behind his friend,” said Imran Khan, a transportation authority
Mr. Zazi was joking and laughing, they said, the doughnut man once more.
Reporting was contributed by Majeed Babar, Al Baker, Dan Frosch, Kirk
Johnson, William K. Rashbaum and Nate Schweber.
From Smiling Coffee
Vendor to Terror Suspect, NYT, 26.9.2009,
NYC Terror Attack Apparently
Was Set for Sept. 11
September 25, 2009
Filed at 1:14 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
DENVER (AP) -- An Afghan immigrant wanted to carry out a massive New York
City terror attack involving hydrogen peroxide bombs on commuter trains to
coincide with the Sept. 11 anniversary before federal authorities foiled the
plan, a U.S. prosecutor said Friday.
U.S. prosecutor Tim Neff told a federal judge in Denver that Najibullah Zazi
''was intent on being in New York on 9/11'' for a possible terror attack.
''The defendant was in the throes of making a bomb and attempting to perfect his
formulation,'' Neff said. He called the evidence a ''chilling, disturbing
sequence of events.''
Neff ordered Zazi, a 24-year-old Afghan-born coffee cart owner in New York and
Denver airport shuttle driver, transferred to New York City to face charges of
conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction. It wasn't immediately known when
the U.S. Marshals Service would fly Zazi to New York.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer ordered Najibullah Zazi held without bail
pending his transfer to New York, where a federal grand jury indicted him on the
terror charges, which carry a possible life sentence upon conviction.
The U.S. indictment says Zazi received explosives training from al-Qaida and
bought large quantities of hydrogen peroxide and nail-polish remover at beauty
supply stores to make bombs, possibly to detonate on New York City commuter
Zazi has denied any involvement with terror.
Shaffer earlier dismissed a charge accusing Zazi of lying to federal
authorities. Zazi was arrested Saturday on that charge -- considered a holding
charge until the federal indictment was handed down on Thursday.
Prosecutors told the judge Zazi posed a significant risk to the public and had
few ties to the Colorado community, making him a flight risk.
Investigators have fanned out across the Denver area and New York City, going to
beauty shops, home improvement stores and neighborhoods Zazi frequented looking
for possible accomplices, while the government issued national terrorism
warnings for sports complexes, hotels and transit systems.
A law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday that Zazi had
associates in New York who were in on the plot. Court papers say that during the
summer, Zazi and three unidentified associates bought ''unusually large
quantities'' of hydrogen peroxide and acetone -- a flammable solvent found in
nail-polish remover -- from beauty supply stores in the Denver area, products
with names like Ion Sensitive Scalp Developer and Clairoxide.
Zazi searched a Queens home improvement store Web site for another ingredient
needed to make a compound called TATP (Triacetone Triperoxide), the explosives
used in the London bombings that killed over 50 people, prosecutors said.
Zazi has publicly denied being a terrorist since his arrest. He left a Denver
court Thursday without commenting.
The government motion seeking to deny bail laid out a chronology of the alleged
scheme, which prosecutors said had been in the works for over a year.
Zazi -- a legal U.S. resident who immigrated in 1999 -- began plotting as early
as August 2008 to ''use one or more weapons of mass destruction,'' when he ''and
others'' traveled from Newark, N.J., to receive explosives training in Pakistan,
Within days of returning from Pakistan in early 2009, he moved to the Denver
suburb of Aurora, where he used a computer to research homemade bomb ingredients
and to look up beauty supply stores where he could buy them, according to
A second law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of
the ongoing investigation said associates of Zazi visited Colorado from New York
to help him buy the chemicals, using stolen credit cards to make the purchases
before returning to New York.
Security video and receipts show that some of the purchases were made near a
Colorado hotel, according to court papers. On Sept. 6 and 7, Zazi checked into a
suite at the hotel with a kitchen and a stove, the papers say, and tried to
contact an unidentified associate ''seeking to correct mixtures of ingredients
to make explosives.''
''Zazi repeatedly emphasized in the communications that he needed the answers
right away,'' the papers said. ''Each communication'' was ''more urgent than the
FBI explosives testing later found residue in the vent above the stove,
On Sept. 8, court papers say, Zazi searched the Internet for home improvement
stores in Queens before driving a rental car for a two-day trip to the city. The
visit triggered a series of searches in Denver and New York City over the past
two weeks, and netted backpacks, cell phones and a scale at a home where Zazi
spent the night.
A law enforcement official said Thursday that authorities had been especially
worried about Zazi's Sept. 10 visit to the city because it coincided with a
visit by President Barack Obama, and considered arresting him right away. The
official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation continues.
Beauty supply store employees in New York and the Denver suburbs said
authorities had been there recently asking whether anyone had come in buying a
lot of hydrogen peroxide or acetone.
At Beauty Supply Warehouse in suburban Denver, Paul Phillips said a co-worker
told investigators he had sold chemicals to Zazi. Company president Karan Hoss
said the firm turned over security video of a man matching Zazi's description to
the FBI. A check of sales found that someone bought a dozen 32-ounce bottles of
a hydrogen peroxide product in July. More was purchased in late August, Hoss
Zazi's father, Mohammed Wali Zazi, and a New York City imam, Ahmad Wais Afzali,
also appeared in court Thursday on charges they lied to investigators. Mohammed
Zazi, 53, was ordered freed under court supervision in Denver until an Oct. 9
hearing. Afzali, who was accused of tipping off the Zazis to the federal probe
against them in a tapped telephone call, was released in New York on $1.5
Afzali's attorney, Ron Kuby, denied his client knew anything about a plot.
''Obviously, the government would not be consenting to bail if it thought he was
involved in a terrorism conspiracy,'' he said.
Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Samantha Gross in New York, Devlin Barrett
in Washington and P. Solomon Banda in Denver contributed to this report.
NYC Terror Attack
Apparently Was Set for Sept. 11, NYT, 25.9.2009,
Called One of Most Serious
September 25, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID JOHNSTON
and SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON — Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, senior government
officials have announced dozens of terrorism cases that on closer examination
seemed to diminish as legitimate threats. The accumulating evidence against a
Denver airport shuttle driver suggests he may be different, with some
investigators calling his case the most serious in years.
Documents filed in Brooklyn against the driver, Najibullah Zazi, contend he
bought chemicals needed to build a bomb — hydrogen peroxide, acetone and
hydrochloric acid — and in doing so, Mr. Zazi took a critical step made by few
other terrorism suspects.
If government allegations are to be believed, Mr. Zazi, a legal immigrant from
Afghanistan, had carefully prepared for a terrorist attack. He attended a Qaeda
training camp in Pakistan, received training in explosives and stored in his
laptop computer nine pages of instructions for making bombs from the same kind
of chemicals he had bought.
While many important facts remain unknown, those allegations alone would
distinguish Mr. Zazi from nearly all the other defendants in United States
terrorism cases in recent years. More often than not the earlier suspects
emerged as angry young men, inflamed by the rhetoric of Osama bin Laden or his
associates. Some were serious in intent. More than a few seemed to be
malcontents without the organization, technical skills and financing to be much
of a threat. In some cases, the subjects appeared to be influenced by informants
or undercover agents who pledged to provide the weapons or even do some of the
In two cases unrelated to Mr. Zazi in which charges were announced on Thursday,
in fact, the subjects dealt extensively with undercover agents.
The Zazi case “actually looks like the case the government kept claiming it had
but never did,” said Karen J. Greenberg, executive director of the Center on Law
and Security at New York University law school.
Her center has studied all the prosecutions of terrorism-related crimes since
2001, and she said many had turned out to be “fantasy terrorism cases” where the
threat seemed modest or even nonexistent.
This time, she said, “the ingredients here are quite scary,” and the
government’s statements have had none of the bombast and exaggeration that
accompanied some previous arrest announcements.
Jarret Brachman, author of “Global Jihadism” and a consultant to the government
about terrorism, said some details — like what individuals trained Mr. Zazi in
Pakistan — remained to be learned. But he said the case was “shaping up to be
one of the most serious terrorist bomb plots developed in the United States,”
one resembling the London public transit attacks of July 2005.
“You don’t manufacture homemade TATP explosives unless you want to kill people
and destroy infrastructure,” Dr. Brachman said, using the abbreviation for the
combination of chemicals said to be involved in the Zazi plot.
In some earlier investigations, federal officials seized on what were widely
viewed as marginal cases in an apparent effort to show results and justify
aggressive steps being taken in the campaign against terrorism. As a result,
people in and out of government have become dubious about assertions of the
grave danger posed by any particular group of defendants.
In August, for example, William Webb, a federal magistrate in North Carolina,
ordered Daniel P. Boyd, an antigovernment militant, and several other men
detained on terrorism charges. But the judge expressed skepticism in court when
prosecutors asserted that by talking about “going to the beach,” a defendant
meant he intended to engage in violent acts overseas.
But even cases that appear insubstantial can be more complex. For example, on
Thursday, Mr. Boyd and two other defendants were charged with additional crimes:
conducting reconnaissance of the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va., and
obtaining armor-piercing ammunition with the intent to attack Americans, court
Even in Mr. Zazi’s case, veteran counterterrorism investigators who regard it as
significant acknowledge that important facts remain unknown. Unclear are whether
Mr. Zazi had selected a target or a date for a bombing or had recruited others
Moreover, it is not understood fully whether he had built an operational bomb,
officials briefed on the case said. Nor is it known why, after practicing with
explosive recipes in Colorado, Mr. Zazi drove to New York without chemicals or
equipment, the officials said.
Some of the earliest terrorist operatives arrested after the 2001 attacks had
direct ties not just to Al Qaeda, but to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief
organizer of Sept. 11.
But in recent years, foiled plots announced with fanfare in Washington have
sometimes involved unsophisticated people who seemed hardly capable of
organizing a major attack.
In some cases, the role of Al Qaeda has been played by an F.B.I. informant or
undercover agent who seemed to provide much of the energy for the plotting.
For example, on Thursday prosecutors in Illinois charged a 29-year-old man with
trying to kill federal employees by detonating a car bomb at the federal
building in Springfield. He tried to carry out the attack while accompanied by
an undercover officer of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to
government legal papers. The vehicle was supplied by the F.B.I., which had
placed a dummy device inside.
In yet another case disclosed on Thursday, F.B.I. agents in Texas arrested a
19-year-old illegal immigrant from Jordan and charged him with trying to bomb a
60-story office tower in Dallas. Again, F.B.I. undercover agents posing as
members of a Qaeda sleeper cell met with the man for months and supplied a Ford
Explorer containing inert material resembling a bomb.
In a 2006 case, a group of Haitian-born men in Miami who had spoken of trying to
take down the Sears Tower in Chicago were supplied by an informant with cash,
video cameras and boots. The first two attempts to try the men ended in
mistrials, but five men were convicted in May in that case after a third trial.
F.B.I. officials have admitted that such cases are “aspirational” rather than
operational. But they note that if the Sept. 11 hijackers — some of whom were
unsophisticated recent arrivals to the United States — had been interrupted
early on, they might have looked amateurish and the notion that they could turn
jetliners into missiles far-fetched.
Terror Case Called One
of Most Serious in Years, NYT, 25.9.2009,
Held Without Bail in Colorado
September 22, 2009
The New York Times
By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM
and DAN FROSCH
The Colorado man who prosecutors say received explosives training in Pakistan
last year and drove to New York 12 days ago with bomb-making instructions on his
laptop appeared in a Denver federal court on Monday and was ordered held without
The man, Najibullah Zazi, who was born in Afghanistan, raised in Pakistan and
New York and moved to Denver early this year, looked wide-eyed and younger than
his 24 years when he walked into Federal District Court, his hands cuffed in
front of him.
Mr. Zazi, who is at the center of what authorities have described as a widening
investigation into a possible Qaeda bomb plot that stretched from Pakistan to
Denver and New York, sat with his father, Mohammed Wali Zazi, 53, at the hearing
before Magistrate Judge Craig B. Shaffer.
The two men and a 37-year-old imam from Queens were arrested over the weekend on
charges that they lied to federal authorities during a terrorism investigation.
The young man and his father were arrested at their home in Colorado, the imam
The charges stem from a long-running terrorism investigation that focused in
some measure on Mr. Zazi, a Denver airport shuttle bus driver. Counterterrorism
officials have said they were deeply concerned because of Mr. Zazi’s explosives
training and because his legal resident status and eight years in the United
States enabled him to operate while attracting little attention.
On Monday afternoon, the imam, Ahmad Wais Afzali, appeared in Federal District
Court in Brooklyn, about an hour before the hearing in Denver. A slight man with
a long beard, Mr. Afzali wore a flowing tan tunic and matching pants, and held
his hands clasped behind his back.
He was held pending a bail hearing on Thursday. He waved to his wife, father and
other relatives and friends as he entered and left the courtroom. One man blew
him a kiss.
Mr. Afzali, who has provided the New York police with information in the past,
is accused of warning Mr. Zazi in New York that he was the target of
investigators, an accusation Mr. Afzali’s lawyer has denied.
At the Denver proceeding, Judge Shaffer, in an arrangement approved by the
prosecutor, Tim Neff, ordered the elder Mr. Zazi released on $50,000 bond, with
home confinement. He will be held until monitoring equipment is installed. A
bail hearing for his son, whom prosecutors have indicated they will seek to
detain, is set for Thursday.
A portly man, dressed in black sweat pants and a white T-shirt tucked in at the
waist, he appeared weary and bewildered. A senior public defender, Warren
Williamson, said that his office would represent the man and requested a Pashtun
interpreter, saying his client’s grasp of English was insufficient to understand
what was going on.
The charges of making false statements came days after the investigation was
short-circuited by what officials said was Mr. Afzali’s warning to the younger
Mr. Zazi. Several law enforcement and counterterrorism officials said the
disclosure of their investigation left them with few concrete details about any
possible plot, and court papers indicate that the inquiry was focused on
“several individuals in the United States, Pakistan and elsewhere.”
The apparent blind spots about the plot have left many officials concerned about
what they do not know. As a result, with President Obama and other world leaders
scheduled to attend the United Nations General Assembly this week in New York,
the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York police have been working to
identify Mr. Zazi’s associates.
Federal authorities on Friday warned security agencies around the country about
attacks on mass transit. The alert followed one issued last week that warned
about improvised explosives made with hydrogen peroxide, which federal
authorities believed may have been part of the plot linked to Mr. Zazi.
In interviews with reporters and through his lawyer, Arthur Folsom, Mr. Zazi
denied in the days before his arrest any ties to Al Qaeda, involvement in a plot
or wrongdoing of any kind. Mr. Folsom said little in court, and when mobbed by
reporters afterward said he would make no comment.
The Brooklyn prosecutors, Jeffrey Knox and Berit Berger, and Mr. Neff in Denver
said they would use evidence obtained under the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act, which allows electronic surveillance and covert searches in
counterterrorism cases without evidence that a crime has been committed. The
statute requires that the government show probable cause that the target is an
agent of a foreign power or a terrorist group.
In Brooklyn, Mr. Afzali’s lawyer, the outspoken Ronald L. Kuby, who is a co-host
of a radio show with Curtis Sliwa and was long known as the ponytailed junior
partner of William M. Kunstler, the late civil liberties lawyer, took an
approach markedly different from that of Mr. Folsom in Denver.
He asked Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak to order the government to produce
for his client’s bail hearing a police detective who he said had long dealt with
Mr. Afzali. Mr. Kuby said he wanted the detective to testify about Mr. Afzali’s
long-running assistance to the police.
Outside the courthouse after the hearing, Mr. Kuby derided the F.B.I., saying
his client never made the false statements attributed to him in court papers and
thereby suggesting that the agents who interviewed Mr. Afzali had lied.
Mr. Kuby also accused the F.B.I. of blaming his client for disclosing the
investigation into Mr. Zazi when, as he put it, “it was the F.B.I. itself,
through its own conduct, that tipped off Najibullah Zazi that he was under
Mr. Kuby offered no evidence to support his allegation, and the F.B.I. declined
Joseph Berger contributed reporting.
Terrorism Suspect Held
Without Bail in Colorado, NYT, 22.9.2009,
Terror Suspect Had Bomb Guide,
September 21, 2009
The New York Times
By DAVID JOHNSTON
and WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM
The central figure in what authorities describe as a widening
inquiry into a possible plot to detonate explosives in the United States had
been trained in weapons and explosives in Pakistan and, according to court
papers released Sunday, had made nine pages of handwritten notes on how to make
and handle bombs.
The court papers, released after the arrests in Colorado of Najibullah Zazi and
his father, as well as that of an imam in Queens, showed that during a search in
New York of the younger Mr. Zazi’s rental car on Sept. 11, agents found a laptop
computer containing an image of the notes. According to a criminal complaint,
the notes “contain formulations and instructions regarding the manufacture and
handling of initiating explosives, main explosives charges, explosives
detonators and components of a fusing system.”
Court papers also show that in F.B.I. interviews, Mr. Zazi, 24, told agents that
during a 2008 trip to Pakistan, he attended courses and received instruction on
weapons and explosives at a Qaeda training camp in a tribal area.
The arrests late Saturday indicated the case was rapidly accelerating and
provided for the first time — in a sometimes confusing week of events — an
explanation of why authorities have focused on the men, even as it shed little
light about the alleged plot still under investigation in the United States,
Pakistan and elsewhere.
“It is important to note that we have no specific information regarding the
timing, location or target of any planned attack,” David Kris, assistant
attorney general for national security, said early Sunday.
Veteran counterterrorism officials said they were convinced the plot was
potentially serious, based largely on their emerging suspicions about Mr. Zazi,
his training in explosives, his travel to Pakistan tribal areas where Al Qaeda
is influential and the apparent ease of his movements within the United States.
But these officials, in Washington, New York and Denver, acknowledge that they
could be overstating Mr. Zazi’s significance because they know little about his
precise intentions and may never know completely what he might have been
planning. But as the investigation has progressed there appear to be few
doubters within the government.
The criminal complaints filed by federal prosecutors in Denver and Brooklyn
charge that Mr. Zazi and the two others arrested, his father, Mohammed Wali
Zazi, and the imam, Ahmad Wais Afzali, who was said to have been a source for
the New York police, lied during questioning in the terrorism investigation.
On Wednesday, the complaints said, when agents interviewed Mr. Zazi in Denver,
he falsely said he had never seen the handwritten notes and told agents that he
had not written them.
In the days leading up to his arrest, before he voluntarily underwent three
marathon sessions of questioning by F.B.I. agents in Denver, Mr. Zazi, in
interviews with reporters and through his lawyers, denied any links to Al Qaeda,
any involvement in any plot and any wrongdoing whatsoever. On Sunday, after the
announcement of the charges, neither his lawyer, Arthur Folsom, nor a public
relations adviser whom Mr. Folsom had hired to field the seemingly endless
barrage of calls from reporters, would comment.
The complaints are said by authorities to be a preliminary step that enabled
them to detain the men, who had known for more than a week that they were under
What has troubled federal prosecutors and the F.B.I. is the belief that Mr. Zazi
embodies what concerns them most: a Westernized militant, trained by Al Qaeda in
Pakistan, whose experience and legal resident status in the United States give
him the freedom to operate freely, yet attract little attention.
But the questions about Mr. Zazi’s significance continue to persist in part
because the surveillance of him and others, including wiretaps and physical
surveillance, was interrupted before authorities had obtained crucial
information, like the intended target or the timing of any plot.
Mr. Zazi and his father were scheduled to make an initial appearance on Monday
in Federal District Court in Denver, and Mr. Afzali will make his appearance,
also on Monday, in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. Government officials said
the charges, which carry a maximum penalty of eight years in prison, were
preliminary and were likely to be followed by an indictment with more detailed
accusations as the investigation continues.
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a
Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group, said in a telephone
interview that the charges raised concerns about civil liberties.
“It heightens our concerns about the case because you would expect that if the
government’s allegations were based on strong evidence, that there would be
charges brought based on terror-related evidence, not making false statements,”
Various court documents showed that investigators had removed what may be
evidence from an apartment in Queens where Mr. Zazi stayed the night of Sept.
10, including backpacks, cellphones and a battery-powered scale that had Mr.
Zazi’s fingerprints on it — suggestive of a possible bomb plot.
At the apartment where the objects were removed, a tenant, Naiz Khan, said the
F.B.I. had questioned him about the scale, but he said he told them that it did
not belong to him or any of his roommates.
“I don’t know who it belongs to,” he said. “This is not our scale. Maybe they
got it from another apartment.”
In a sense, the case reflects the tension that has grown between intelligence
and law enforcement agencies since the September 2001 attacks. Some intelligence
officials are prepared to disrupt a group as soon as its activities are
discovered, while more case-oriented law enforcement agencies seek to
surreptitiously track or infiltrate a suspect group, uncovering all of its
members, until there is compelling evidence to charge the plotters with a crime.
In this case, officials say, Mr. Zazi and his confederates were apparently
deterred before any plot had a chance to take shape and before investigators
were able to clearly understand what the men were planning. That left
prosecutors to charge the three men with proxy offenses of making false
statements rather than crimes directly involving terrorism.
Some officials said they had moved quickly, fearing that Mr. Zazi’s plans might
have been more advanced than they realized, at the same time counterterrorism
officials in New York were preparing for major events like this week’s meeting
of the United Nations General Assembly, to be attended by President Obama and
Al Baker and Karen Zraick contributed reporting
Terror Suspect Had Bomb
Guide, Authorities Say, NYT, 21.9.2009,
U.S. Kills Top Qaeda Leader
in Southern Somalia
September 15, 2009
The New York Times
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
and ERIC SCHMITT
NAIROBI, Kenya — American commandos killed one of the most wanted Islamic
militants in Africa in a daylight raid in southern Somalia on Monday, according
to American and Somali officials, an indication of the Obama administration’s
willingness to use combat troops strategically against Al Qaeda’s growing
influence in the region.
Western intelligence agents have described the militant, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan,
as the ringleader of a Qaeda cell in Kenya responsible for the bombing of an
Israeli hotel on the Kenyan coast in 2002. Mr. Nabhan may have also played a
role in the attacks on two American embassies in East Africa in 1998.
American military forces have been hunting him for years, and on Monday, around
1 p.m., villagers near the town of Baraawe said four military helicopters
suddenly materialized over the horizon and shot at two trucks rumbling through
The trucks were carrying leaders of the Shabab, an Islamist extremist group
fighting to overthrow Somalia’s weak but internationally recognized government.
The Shabab work hand-in-hand with foreign terrorists, according to Western and
Somali agents, and in the past few months, as the battle for control of Somalia
has intensified, the group seems to be drawing increasingly close to Al Qaeda.
American officials on Monday provided few details, but confirmed that Special
Operations forces, operating from a nearby American warship, participated in the
Under the administration of President George W. Bush, the American military used
long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles and AC-130 gunships to carry out strikes
against terrorism suspects in Somalia. One American adviser said the decision to
use commandos and not long-range missiles in this case may reflect a shift by
the Obama administration to go to greater lengths to avoid civilian deaths. In
the past, many Somali villagers have been killed by American missiles.
But urgency was a major, if not overriding, factor as well. A senior American
military official said the Special Operations forces, who had kept Mr. Nabhan
under lengthy surveillance waiting for the right moment to strike, acted quickly
after tracking Mr. Nabhan to a location away from civilians on Monday. “We have
been watching him for a long, long time,” said the military official.
Despite the danger of conducting the mission during the day, the strategy
ensured that the troops could more accurately identify their target, attack it
and confirm the deaths afterward. “This approach was, ‘Let’s do it very quickly,
very swiftly and confirm he’s gone,’ ” the adviser said.
Mr. Nabhan played an increasingly important role as a senior instructor for new
militant recruits, including some Americans, as well as a liaison to senior
Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, the senior American adviser said.
“This is very significant because it takes away a person who’s been a main
conduit between the East Africa extremists and big Al Qaeda,” said the adviser,
who like several United States officials spoke on the condition of anonymity
because of the classified nature of the mission.
The helicopters, with commandos firing .50-caliber machine guns and other
automatic weapons, quickly disabled the trucks, according to villagers in the
area, and several of the Shabab fighters tried to fire back. Shabab leaders said
that six foreign fighters, including Mr. Nabhan, were quickly killed, along with
three Somali Shabab. The helicopters landed, and the commandos inspected the
wreckage and carried away the bodies of Mr. Nabhan and the other fighters for
identification, a senior American military official said.
“We are very upset, very upset,” said a Shabab official from the town of Merka,
near where the raid happened. “This is a big loss for us.”
Mr. Nabhan, who was thought to be around 30 years old and of Yemeni descent, was
born in Mombasa, on Kenya’s coast. American intelligence sources have said that
he masterminded the suicide bombing of the Paradise hotel in Mombasa, which
killed 11 Kenyans and 3 Israelis and wounded dozens of others.
The Paradise was a popular Israeli hangout, complete with a kosher restaurant
and synagogue. That same day, Nov. 28, 2002, a group of assailants fired several
missiles at an Israeli passenger jet at the Mombasa airport, narrowly missing
it. Intelligence agents said Mr. Nabhan helped fire the missiles.
Mr. Nabhan was one of the handful of Qaeda terrorists hiding out in Somalia for
years, taking advantage of the country’s chaos to elude agents pursuing them.
Mr. Nabhan was believed to be a close associate of Fazul Abdullah Mohamed, Al
Qaeda’s East Africa operations chief, who helped organize the bombings of the
American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, which killed more than 200
people. American military forces have tried to kill Mr. Nabhan and Mr. Mohamed
with airstrikes several times in recent years.
The Baraawe area, like much of southern Somalia, is controlled by the Shabab.
There is increasing evidence that foreign jihadists, like Mr. Nabhan, are
leading Somali Shabab and training them in suicide bombs.
American officials said Mr. Nabhan’s death is likely to send other suspects
scurrying for cover. When they resurface, there may be killings of those
suspected of being informants, sowing further turmoil in their ranks, American
Jeffrey Gettleman reported from Nairobi and Eric Schmitt from Washington.
Mohamed Ibrahim contributed reporting from Mogadishu, Somalia
U.S. Kills Top Qaeda Leader
in Southern Somalia, NYT, 15.9.2009,
Addresses Americans in Tape
September 14, 2009
The New York Times
By MARK McDONALD
Two days after the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and
Washington, Osama bin Laden apparently released a new audiotape, entitled “An
Address to the American People,” news agencies reported Monday.
The tape appeared on As-Sahab, the Arabic-language Web site used by Al Qaeda to
deliver its messages. The recording was reported and translated by the SITE
Intelligence Group and IntelCenter, two groups in the United States that monitor
jihadist Web sites.
SITE said the message, which was released on Sept. 13 and lasted 11 minutes, 20
seconds, offered reasons for Al Qaeda’s attacks in New York and Washington on
Sept. 11, 2001, and advised how the conflict between Al Qaeda and the United
States might come to a close.
The group said the recording spoke of injustices against the Muslim world,
mentioning American support for Israel.
IntelCenter said the message consisted of a still image of Bin Laden with a
voice track underneath, news agencies reported. An employee of IntelCenter could
not immediately be reached for comment about its translation of the tape, and it
was not possible to verify that the recording was actually made by Mr. Bin
The last tape attributed to Mr. Bin Laden, the Qaeda leader who is widely
thought to be hiding in the mountainous region along the border of Afghanistan
and Pakistan, was issued June 3. That message, which came as President Obama was
embarking on a tour of Muslim countries, warned the United States about its
policies in Pakistan.
It said the new American administration had sowed new seeds of hatred among
“I think the reports we’ve seen are consistent with messages we’ve seen in the
past from Al Qaeda threatening the U.S. and other countries that are involved in
counterterrorism efforts,” the White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said at the
time. “But I don’t think it’s surprising that Al Qaeda would want to shift
attention away from the president’s historic efforts and continued efforts to
reach out and have an open dialogue with the Muslim world.”
Bin Laden Addresses
Americans in Tape, NYT, 14.9.2009,
September 13, 2009
The New York Times
Eight years have now passed since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon, and the victims, their families and the rest of America
are still denied justice. The United States has tried and convicted one person
for those horrifying crimes.
The Bush administration captured about a dozen high-ranking Al Qaeda members,
including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of 9/11. But
President Bush refused to subject them to real trials under American law.
Mr. Bush claimed that the attacks had changed the world so much that both
civilian and military courts were no longer adequate to try and punish
terrorists. That was wrong then, and still is. The nation has always had the
tools it needs to do that job — legally and without jeopardizing secrets or
shredding the Constitution.
But Mr. Bush created his own detention camps and, later, military tribunals
where guilty verdicts were guaranteed. This rogue system has done enormous
damage to the country’s reputation and made the world even more dangerous for
It took years for American courts to reject the camps and the tribunals, which
have never held a successful trial. The only 9/11-related conviction was that of
Zacarias Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty — in a civilian court — to six charges of
conspiring with the hijackers.
The blame for justice delayed, and the continuing damage to America’s standing,
no longer rests solely with Mr. Bush. Lawmakers from both parties are thwarting
President Obama’s efforts to close the Guantánamo Bay prison camp. They posture
and prey on American anxieties, talking about turning terrorists loose in the
United States, as if the prison system were not already holding dangerous men,
including convicted terrorists.
It now seems certain the administration will not be able to meet President
Obama’s January 2010 deadline to close Guantánamo, and it is not clear how long
it will take to hold legitimate trials even after it is closed.
Some, mostly on the right, argue that trials are not needed. They say that
following rules of evidence hamstrings intelligence agents pursuing terrorists,
and that the president should have the power to lock up some prisoners
indefinitely. Mr. Obama has resisted that idea, and should continue to do so. He
also has fixed some of the worst flaws of Mr. Bush’s tribunals, including their
use of evidence obtained through abuse and torture. But Mr. Obama needs to
finally reject the idea that nonmilitary prisoners may be tried in military
Prisoners captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan should be held as prisoners
of war, under Red Cross monitoring. If they committed war crimes, they may be
tried by military tribunals. Those captured outside Afghanistan who are directly
participating in hostilities by doing such things as directing troops also
should be treated as battlefield prisoners.
But those captured in other parts of the world on terrorism charges not directly
related to Afghanistan are criminal suspects. They should be tried in federal
criminal courts. The Bush administration refused to do that, claiming that the
evidence was too sensitive and too secret. We have been discouraged to hear Mr.
Obama make a similar argument on occasion.
The federal courts have long been able to handle cases involving classified
evidence. Right now, the federal court hearing Guantánamo inmates’ petitions to
be released routinely handles secrets.
And the resistance to criminal trials for the worst terrorism suspects does not
come only from a desire to safeguard what the intelligence agencies know. It
also springs from a desire to cover up what the agencies did. The recently
released report by the C.I.A. inspector general said the agency wants to avoid
trials for prisoners who “would likely divulge information about the
circumstances of their detention.”
Some of the evidence against Guantánamo prisoners may not be usable in court,
because they were abused and tortured under orders approved by the Justice
Department and the White House. But none of these worst offenders need to be set
free. For some, like Mr. Mohammed, there are federal terrorism indictments not
related to 9/11 and untainted by abuse. Others can be tried under the law
against providing material support to terrorists, which is written very broadly.
That may not be as satisfying as convicting them for mass murder. But it would
be better to settle for a lesser conviction that would still mean long
imprisonment. This nation’s legal structure and reputation cannot afford the
continuing harm, and the victims of 9/11 deserve justice.
Justice Delayed, NYT,
9/11’s Litany of Loss,
Joined by Another Name
September 12, 2009
The New York Times
By LISA W. FODERARO
Leon Heyward emerged from the subway just as the second plane struck,
piercing the south tower. As others fled, he helped evacuate disabled employees
from 42 Broadway, where he worked for the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs,
and when the first tower fell, he was caught in the churning plume of
contaminated dust and smoke.
Within months he started to feel sick. A father of two who prided himself on
being fit, Mr. Heyward found himself overcome with fatigue. He had seizures; his
memory slipped. Once, while working undercover as an inspector, he forgot where
“It was hard seeing him go from being strong and muscular and running around to
watching him sit there,” said his ex-wife, Monique Heyward.
Last October, after developing lymphoma, Mr. Heyward died at age 45 in the
Bronx, where he was born and had formed one of the earliest rap groups. He
became, officially, the latest casualty of the Sept. 11 terror attack, and just
after 10 on a gusty, dreary Friday morning, the name Leon Bernard Heyward was
read for the first time at ground zero as the nation paused again to remember
President Obama, marking his first Sept. 11 in the nation’s highest office, and
the first lady, Michelle Obama, observed the first moment of silence outside the
White House. The president later spoke at the Pentagon, where 184 people died.
But the capital was momentarily startled when miscommunication over a routine
Coast Guard exercise prompted an F.B.I. response and caused Reagan National
Airport to briefly halt departures.
In New York, the intoning of victims’ names Friday was again the centerpiece of
an annual rite that seemed to have retained its power despite the passage of
time, with relatives crying through the rain and some still struggling to get
the words out. In a nod to a new federal designation of Sept. 11 as a National
Day of Service and Remembrance, volunteers from organizations across the city
joined relatives to read the names.
Family members were allowed to visit the site where the memorial pools — huge
square voids that are to be lined with waterfalls — are only now beginning to
Relatives placed flowers in a round pool set up for the ceremony, some clutching
framed photographs wrapped in plastic as protection from the rain. Four moments
of silence were observed to mark the times when the two planes hit the towers
and when each building fell.
A handful of politicians, including Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and
former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, took turns reading poems and addressing the
few hundred family members assembled in Zuccotti Park on Liberty Street.
The addition of Mr. Heyward brought the list of names of World Trade Center
victims to 2,752. Ms. Heyward, who remained close to Mr. Heyward after their
divorce in 2001, said his inclusion was bittersweet for the family.
“In a way it’s great that he can be honored every year,” she said. But Ms.
Heyward, who moved to North Carolina three years ago, also worried that the
annual Sept. 11 ceremony would mean “reliving it every year,” which could prove
difficult for her children, Saiydah, 18, and Leon, 22.
“Not a day went by without our speaking to him,” said Ms. Heyward, who added,
only half in jest, that they started dating in Holy Cross Elementary School in
the Bronx. “He was a great dad. Everything he did was for his kids.”
Mr. Heyward was known by many in the music world by another name, MC Sundance, a
member of the Jazzy Five, one of the first rap groups to form in the South Bronx
in the 1970s. He liked to work out and play basketball, and landed a job with
After he fell ill, Mr. Heyward was forced to quit work and struggled to get by
on disability payments. “He would just smile and watch the kids and he had no
energy,” Ms. Heyward said. “He couldn’t remember very simple things. He would
just nod his head.”
After Mr. Heyward died of lymphoma, New York City’s chief medical examiner
classified his as a Sept. 11 death because he was exposed to the cloud of dust
the day the towers fell.
Although families of several New Yorkers who worked on the cleanup and later
died have sought that designation, only one other name has been added to the
list because of dust-related illness.
That person, Felicia Dunn-Jones, a lawyer whose office was a block from the
trade center, died in 2002. The medical examiner attributed her death, in part,
to sarcoidosis, which produces microscopic lumps called granulomas on the lungs
and other organs.
“One of the criteria is that you have to have been there when the towers came
down,” said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner. “Every case
can be different. We’ll always review a case. We will to this day.”
Ms. Dunn-Jones’s family was awarded $2.6 million from the September 11 Victim
Compensation Fund, which is now closed.
It is unclear whether Mr. Heyward’s family might be eligible for any
compensation; a bill is pending before Congress that would reopen the fund with
up to $8.4 billion for those who were injured at ground zero.
His relatives have hired a lawyer to explore their options. “I don’t want any
more than what my family is entitled to,” Ms. Heyward said.
After the planes struck the towers, Mr. Heyward’s boss, Hector Serrano, gave Mr.
Heyward his city car and told him to drive it out of the area. “I figured he
would immediately evacuate, but a half hour later I got a call that he was still
standing by, waiting for further instructions,” said Mr. Serrano, who is now an
assistant commissioner of the City of New York Business Integrity Commission.
“We happened to get a couple of disabled people out of the building,” he said.
“Leon was successful in getting these people out. I credit him for that — for
not leaving the area. He was the kind of person you could always count on. Any
time you needed something done, he would follow through.”
Mr. Heyward’s sister Leona Hull had planned to represent her brother at the
ceremony Friday. But when she woke up, she felt too shaky, and stayed at home in
the Bronx, where she watched his name — mispronounced as “Lennon” — read for the
first time on television.
“It was too emotional for me,” said Ms. Hull, a 57-year-old dance teacher, in a
phone interview shortly after his name was read. “There’s no closure right now.
October will be a year.”
9/11’s Litany of Loss,
Joined by Another Name, NYT, 12.9.2009,
Obama Speaks at 9/11 Commemoration
September 12, 2009
The New York Times
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
WASHINGTON — On a gray rainy day in the nation’s capital — so unlike the
bright sunny morning eight years ago when terrorists slammed planes into the
Twin Towers and the Pentagon — President Obama called upon Americans to “renew
our common purpose” with a day of service and remembrance of the Sept. 11
“Through their own lives and through you, the loved ones they left behind, the
men and women who lost their lives eight years ago today leave a legacy that
still shines brightly in the darkness and that calls on all of us to be strong
and firm and united,” Mr. Obama said during a memorial service at the Pentagon.
“That is our calling today and in all the Septembers still to come.”
Mr. Obama and his wife Michelle began the day of commemoration on the White
House South Lawn, where they and some 200 members of the White House staff
observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the moment the first plane struck the
north tower of the World Trade Center.
It had been raining heavily here, but stopped moments before the Obamas emerged.
A bell rang three times and they bowed their heads. They placed their hands over
their hearts while a bugler played taps.
The president took a deep breath before he and Mrs. Obama turned silently and
walked back into the White House. The staff, including Rahm Emanuel, the chief
of staff, and David Axelrod, the senior adviser, stood silently by for a few
Then the rain resumed.
Mr. Obama then traveled across the Potomac River to speak briefly at the
Pentagon, where American Airlines Flight 77, hijacked by five terrorists after
taking off from Dulles International Airport bound for Los Angeles, crashed at
An outdoor memorial now marks the spot with 184 benches, each representing one
victim of the attack — 59 on the plane, and 125 on the ground. Mr. Obama placed
a wreath there, after addressing an audience that included Defense Secretary
Robert Gates, military officials and family members of the victims.
“Mindful that the work of protecting America is never finished, we will do
everything in our power to keep America safe,” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Obama is observing his first Sept. 11 as president — eight years ago he was
still a state senator in Illinois — and is hoping to use the anniversary and the
ones that follow to encourage a spirit of volunteerism. At noon in Washington,
there is to be a service at the National Cathedral, and a number of
organizations are bringing together students and others for a day of volunteer
service, in answer to Mr. Obama’s call.
“On a day when others sought to sap our confidence, let us renew our common
purpose, let us remember how we came together as one nation, as one people, as
Americans united,” Mr. Obama said. “Such sense of purpose need not be a fleeting
John H. Cushman Jr. contributed reporting.
Obama Speaks at 9/11
Commemoration, NYT, 12.9.2009,
USA marks eighth anniversary of 9/11
11 September 2009
By David Jackson and Rick Hampson
NEW YORK — The nation marked the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks Friday in ceremonies around the country that honored the nearly 3,000
people who died and the heroes who rushed forward to help.
Bells tolled throughout New York City as mourners fell silent to observe the
moment a hijacked plane hit the World Trade Center. President Obama placed a
wreath under rainy skies at the Pentagon in memory of those who died there. In
Shanksville, Pa., hundreds were at the field where a plane crashed killing 40
passengers and crew.
Before the somber remembrance in New York, where victims' names were being read
as music played softly, families wore rain jackets and ponchos to fight off the
rain and strong winds.
In Washington, Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and members of the White
House staff stood silently on the south driveway of the White House. A bell
tolled three times as the Obamas stood with their heads bowed.
They then put their hands on their hearts as a military trumpeter played Taps.
The one-minute ceremony took place at 8:46 a.m., the moment at which the first
plane struck a tower at the World Trade Center.
Obama spoke at the Pentagon during a wreath-laying ceremony, the site where 140
people died when a jet slammed into the building.
He urged the nation "to renew our resolve" against the terrorists who
perpetrated the "barbaric act" of eight years ago.
"We remember with reverence the lives we lost," Obama said. Their sacrifice
"still shines brightly in the darkness — it calls on all of us to be firm,
strong, and united."
Vice President Biden attended the memorial service at Ground Zero in New York
"There's a special fraternity of those of us who've lost spouses and children,
but there is also one thing all Americans know to be true and which we remember
most when we come to this site," he said, "in our jobs and in our sorrows, we
know we belong to one another." Biden's daughter and first wife died in a 1972
Wind and rain kept crowd sizes down on the streets around the World Trade Center
site in lower Manhattan, but relatives of those killed on 9/11 turned out in
In an interview, Jay Winuk, whose brother Glenn died when the Trade Center's
South Tower collapsed, praised the day's declaration as a National Day of
Service and Remembrance: "It's a way to honor those who died, and to preserve
the day's meaning." In addition to remembering the attacks themselves, he said,
"future generations must learn of the compassionate response. When the chips
were as down as they could possibly be, people stepped forward to help."
Winuk was one of three family members who made brief speeches during the
ceremony. In his remarks, he called his late brother "my hero," because when
others ran from danger, "he ran toward those in peril" as an EMT and volunteer
fire fighter. Glenn Winuk died after leaving his law office in lower Manhattan
to try to help emergency responders at the Trade Center.
Others stood near the park to pay their respects and tend their memories.
"I come here every year, because I never want to forget what happened that day,"
said Lawrence Appleman, a financial services worker who recalled running north
up Broadway on the same day eight years earlier. "It would take more than rain
to keep me away," he said. "This is nothing compared to 9/11."
In remarks before the names were read, Michael Bloomberg— the only New York
mayor ever to preside at the annual commemoration ceremony, — said that in
addition to remembering the dead, it was important to recall "all those who rush
forward spontaneously to help, whenever and however they could."
As always, there were moments of silence for when jetliners crashed into each
tower and for when each tower collapsed.
"It doesn't matter what kind of weather there is. I would be here either way.
It's a way to come together and find a common place," said Elaine DeJesus of
Clifton, N.J. She carried a framed photo of Nereida DeJesus, 30, her sister and
best friend, who died in Tower 2.
DeJesus, wiping tears off her cheeks, said the anniversaries don't get any
"For me, it's just the same as it was the first day," she said. "There are days
I just sit there and cry. But I also remember the fun times and what she would
want us to do."
Drawing on the spirit that spurred volunteers to rush to the burning towers,
Americans looked for ways to help each other on a day better known for mourning
the thousands of people killed in the nation's worst terrorist attack.
Teresa Mathai, whose husband, Joseph Mathai, died at the World Trade Center,
planned to grieve at a morning wreath-laying ceremony in Boston and hear his
name read out loud. Then she planned to install drywall at a home in south
Boston with Habitat for Humanity, one of thousands of volunteer efforts planned
since Sept. 11 was declared a national day of service.
"Everyone has a different way of mourning," she said. "Some people keep it
absolutely sacred. For me, this is something that gives us solace."
The combination of mourning and national giving was troubling to some who feared
the volunteerism would overshadow a somber day.
"When I first heard about it, I was concerned," said Debra Burlingame, whose
brother was the pilot of the American Airlines jet that crashed into the
Pentagon. "I fear, I greatly fear, at some point we'll transition to turning it
into Earth Day where we go and plant trees and the remembrance part will become
smaller and smaller and smaller."
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who was expected at the memorial
service in New York, said Friday that the anniversary is a "day of sorrow and
tragedy, but also a day of heroism and unity," and that remembrance and
volunteerism are fitting memorials.
"By serving our communities and our country today and throughout the year, we
commemorate our past while also preparing for our future," Napolitano said.
Former president George W. Bush had no plans to attend any ceremonies but issued
"Eight years ago, our nation and our freedom came under attack. On this solemn
anniversary, Laura and I hold the victims and their families in our thoughts and
prayers," the statement said. "We honor those who volunteer to keep us safe and
extend the reach of freedom – including members of the armed forces, law
enforcement officers, and intelligence and homeland security professionals.
Their courage, service, and sacrifice is a fitting tribute to all those who gave
their lives on September 11, 2001. On this day, let us renew our determination
to prevent evil from returning to our shores."
In Pennsylvania, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said the 40 victims of
Flight 93 are worthy successors to the heroes of U.S. battles dating back to the
Powell spoke to hundreds of people gathered under gray skies. Former Homeland
Security Secretary Tom Ridge and retired General Tommy Franks were among those
gathered at the site where the plane crashed.
Flight 93 was traveling from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco when hijackers took
it over with the likely goal of crashing it into the White House or Capitol.
Powell told victims' families that while their losses are painful, thousands of
other lives were saved because passengers and crew fought back against the
Besides the 40 people killed in Pennsylvania, 184 died at the Pentagon and 2,752
died in New York.
Contributing: Rick Hampson in New York, David Jackson in Washington, Steve
Marshall and Carolyn Pesce in McLean, Va., and the Associated Press.
USA marks eighth
anniversary of 9/11, UT, 11.9.2009,
9 / 11 Marked
and a Spirit of Service
September 11, 2009
Filed at 12:00 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK (AP) -- With familiar rituals of grief and a new purpose to honor
those who rushed into danger to help, the nation marked eight years since the
Sept. 11 terror attacks Friday, with volunteers reading the names of the World
Trade Center lost.
Memorials in New York, at the Pentagon and at the crash site of United Airlines
Flight 93 in Pennsylvania all took place under gray skies, and those reading
names at ground zero spoke under tents to protect against rain.
''We miss you. Life will never be the same without you,'' said Vladimir
Boyarsky, whose son, Gennady Boyarsky, was killed. ''This is not the rain. This
is the tears.''
President Barack Obama, observing his first Sept. 11 as president, had signed an
order declaring it a day of service. He had first lady Michelle Obama marked a
moment of silence outside the White House as a bugler played taps.
The president said the nation came together after the attacks, ''united not only
in our grief but in our resolve to stand up for the country we love.''
In Shanksville, Pa., bells tolled for the 40 victims of the fourth hijacked
jetliner that crashed there eight years ago.
At the trade center site, volunteers -- from soup kitchens, advocacy groups, the
Red Cross, the United Way -- joined relatives of the lost to read the names of
those killed in the twin towers.
''I ask that you honor my son and all those who perished eight years ago ... by
volunteering, by making some kind of act of kindness in their memory,'' said
Gloria Russin, whose son, Steven Harris Russin, was killed on 9/11.
Around the country, Americans packed up care packages for soldiers, planted
gardens for low-income families and painted abandoned, boarded-up homes. The
anniversary was declared a day of service for the first time this year to honor
the spirit of those who rushed to the burning towers to save lives.
Renewing what has become a poignant tradition, the relatives called out
greetings and messages of remembrances when they reached the names of their own
''We love you, Dad, and we miss you,'' said Philip Hayes Jr., whose father, long
retired from the Fire Department, rushed to the site that 2001 morning and
ultimately gave his life.
Umbrellas bloomed and whipped inside-out at ground zero, where moments of
silence were observed at 8:46, 9:03, 9:59 and 10:29 a.m. -- the precise times
that jetliners struck the north and south towers of the trade center and that
each tower fell.
''From this day forward, we will safeguard the memories of those who died by
rekindling the spirit of service that lit our city with hope and helped keep us
strong,'' New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the ceremony.
Vice President Joe Biden, speaking during a break in the list of names, told the
several hundred gathered that ''there's a special fraternity for those of us
who've lost spouses and children.'' Biden's daughter and first wife died in a
1972 car accident.
Biden also joined families who laid flowers in a reflecting pool on the site
where the towers once stood.
Relatives and friends of victims visited a partially built, street-level Sept.
11 memorial plaza that had not been there a year ago. The memorial will
ultimately include two square pools evoking the towers' footprints, with
victims' names surrounding them and waterfalls cascading down the sides.
On Friday, William Weaver placed a single red rose in a temporary reflecting
pool at the plaza, a photograph of his son, police Officer Walter E. Weaver,
pinned to his jacket. He said the memorial was taking too long and he did not
like it. ''It should have been a graveyard-type of thing,'' said Weaver, 69, of
Adding tension to an already emotionally charged day, the Coast Guard conducted
a training exercise in the Potomac River near the Pentagon, with vessels
circling in the water near a bridge where Obama's motorcade had passed.
In the confusion, departures from Reagan National Airport were halted for 22
minutes. They resumed at 10:30 a.m., Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman
Diane Spitaliere said. Federal agents also scrambled to the river, said a law
enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official
was not authorized to discuss the incident.
George W. Bush, whose presidency was defined in part by that day, had no public
appearances planned. A spokesman said he would be working in his office. In a
statement, he said he and his wife, Laura, were thinking of the victims and
He also honored members of the armed forces and law enforcement. ''Their
courage, service, and sacrifice is a fitting tribute to all those who gave their
lives on Sept. 11, 2001. On this day, let us renew our determination to prevent
evil from returning to our shores.''
Associated Press writers Verena Dobnik in New York, Nancy Benac and Devlin
Barrett in Washington and Dan Nephin in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.
9 / 11 Marked With
Mourning and a Spirit of Service, NYT, 11.9.2009,
A Trauma That Rippled Outward
September 11, 2009
The New York Times
By CLYDE HABERMAN
Anne Kane was nowhere near the twin towers when they collapsed eight years
ago, but at that moment she entered what she would later describe as “one of the
worst years of my life professionally.”
Dr. Kane is a psychologist. She works a great deal with the dying and the
grieving. It was thus not surprising that people, dozens of them, would turn to
her after losing relatives or friends at the World Trade Center.
“I always try to leave some space in my practice for nice, normal neurotic
people, so that my whole day isn’t just death and dying,” Dr. Kane said. That
was not possible after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack. “It was death, day in and day
out,” she said. “I would be in the office from 8 in the morning till 8 at night
dealing with dead people and bereaved people — all day long for more than a
Her work took its toll. It was nothing like what her patients endured, but it
was no walk in the park, either. She would cry on the way home from work. Pain
crept into muscles and bones. And she came to understand that, for all her
training, “I was ill equipped for how to deal with that kind of trauma that I
In this regard, Dr. Kane was far from alone.
Thousands of mental health professionals — we’ll call them therapists here for
brevity’s sake — volunteered their services after the attack. They wasted no
time flocking to offices of the American Red Cross and to assistance centers set
up by the city. They recognized an aspect of the crisis that they were in a
unique position to handle.
“Sept. 11 was very quickly framed as a mental health emergency,” said Karen M.
Seeley, a psychotherapist and a professor of psychological anthropology at
Columbia University. But most therapists, trained in the main to help people one
at a time, were not ready for this “collective catastrophe,” Dr. Seeley said.
“For everybody, it was unprecedented. Firefighters weren’t prepared. Police
weren’t prepared. Neither were therapists.”
Dr. Seeley spent the better part of two years conducting in-depth interviews
with 35 therapists who had worked closely with 9/11 survivors and families. They
formed the basis for a book called “Therapy After Terror: 9/11, Psychotherapists
and Mental Health” and published last year by Cambridge University Press.
What she learned was that the pros in her field not only were ill prepared for
the disaster but also became overwhelmed by the horrific stories that they heard
and by their own terrorism-induced anxieties. Obviously, victims’ families
suffered most. But all New Yorkers were traumatized to some degree. Their city
had been attacked. As the country entered a constant state of war, they were
told by political leaders to be afraid. Many were.
Being human, therapists often succumbed to the same fears. Dr. Seeley called it
“simultaneous trauma” — “an extremely rare clinical situation in which
therapists were deeply shaken by the same catastrophic events that injured the
patients they were treating.”
One psychologist, Donna Bassin, found herself “emotionally transformed” by the
experience. “I started becoming more aware of community trauma, realizing how
much people needed each other, not just 45 minutes in the psychotherapy office,”
WHAT sorts of errors were made in 2001?
“It was a feeding frenzy of therapists rushing heedlessly to help out, without
having a clue what they were getting into,” said Ghislaine Boulanger, also a
psychologist. Some tried to plunge immediately into “the nitty-gritty” of
therapy, Dr. Boulanger said. But what people really needed was “psychological
first aid,” by way of simple, practical questions like, “Is there someone at
home you can talk to?”
Margaret Klenck, a psychoanalyst and interfaith chaplain, said that one
“knee-jerk” response back then was to “overmedicate people with tranquilizers
“These people were not depressed,” she said. “They were in trauma. They were in
grief. Of course they were crying.”
On the plus side, lessons were learned about how to respond should terror — “God
forbid,” Ms. Klenck said — strike again. “We probably won’t make all the same
mistakes,” she said. “You get smarter. You do get sturdier.”
Then again, avoiding old mistakes does not necessarily mean staving off new
ones. “That’s kind of a defining feature of disasters,” Dr. Seeley said. “They
are always novel.”
A Trauma That Rippled
Outward, NYT, 11.9.2009,
A Fortress City
That Didn’t Come to Be
September 11, 2009
The New York Times
By N. R. KLEINFIELD
The day dawned different and stayed that way. Traffic was thin and sidewalks
quiet. The stock exchange didn’t open, nor the airports, the schools, Broadway.
People loaded up on bottled water, batteries, canoes. The law enforcement
presence was intense: men with machine guns, gunboats circling the harbor.
Downtown, fires burned, smoke plumed. The odor stood.
It was a city humbled and scared, where the possibilities of destruction had
been recalibrated. It was Sept. 12, 2001. The day after.
So much has been said and written about what happened on 9/11. The following day
is forgotten, just another dulled interlude in the aftermath of an incoherent
But New Yorkers were introduced that day to irreducible presumptions about their
wounded city that many believed would harden and become chiseled into the
event’s enduring legacy.
New York would become a fortress city, choked by apprehension and resignation,
forever patrolled by soldiers and submarines. Another attack was coming. And
Tourists? Well, who would ever come again? Work in one of the city’s
skyscrapers? Not likely. The Fire Department, gutted by 343 deaths, could never
If a crippled downtown Manhattan were to have any chance of regeneration, ground
zero had to be rebuilt quickly, a bricks and mortar nose-thumbing to terror.
Eight years later, those presumptions are cobwebbed memories that never came to
pass. Indeed, glimpses into a few aspects of the city help measure the gap
between what was predicted and what actually came to be.
You could start at one downtown street corner. The wisdom of the day after was
that New York would never again bunch together important institutional nerve
centers, binding them together in vulnerability.
On Sept. 11, American Express had its headquarters at the southwest corner of
West and Vesey Streets. It is still there. Since then, Verizon has settled its
headquarters into the northeast corner. Goldman Sachs has assumed the northwest.
All that’s missing is the southeast corner. That will be filled by the tallest
building in America.
The Times Square Novelty Man
David Cohen pointed out what the tourists like: replica taxicabs, “I Love New
York” T-shirts and thimbles — any gewgaw inscribed with New York. “See this
digital picture postcard?” he said. “Nice little item.”
Mr. Cohen, 83, is the patriarch of Grand Slam, a family-run novelty and baseball
clothing store on Broadway between 46th and 47th Streets, in the heart of Times
Square. Eight years ago, he could not have imagined the heaving commerce, the
new big buildings, and especially not the complacent scene outside his doors.
People basked in the balmy weather at tables and chairs, under sheltering patio
umbrellas, spread across Broadway. If they worried about anything, it was
How about that? People, at the behest of the mayor himself, flocking to Times
Square to relax!
When fear engulfed the city on Sept. 12, many wrote off Times Square. Chemical
bombs were sure to explode there. A suicide bomber strapped with explosives was
destined to blow himself up at lunch hour.
“It was creepy,” Mr. Cohen said. “It was, ‘Oh my God, what’s next?’ I thought
this would be the next hit.”
Business was slow for months. Souvenirs didn’t seem to mean the same anymore.
“Yeah, it took a dive,” Mr. Cohen said. He shortened the store’s hours.
But he did not leave. “You can’t live in fear,” he said. “Things happen and then
they don’t happen.”
Now the weak economy squeezes sales, but pedestrian traffic in Times Square is
far higher than it was before Sept. 11. Vastly enhanced security has been put in
place, and even when incidents defy it, like the small bomb that exploded at the
military recruiting station in March 2008, people shrug it off, keep coming.
“This is the best spot in New York,” Mr. Cohen said. “Listen, the Square is the
The Garage Manager
The fires wouldn’t go out. The smell persisted. What company would ever open its
doors in Lower Manhattan? Who would live there? Who could feel secure?
The police stopped and searched trucks. Only a few cars were allowed below 14th
Still, Wilson Ortega, 34, came to work. He managed the parking garage at 56
North Moore Street in TriBeCa.
On Sept. 12, business was, as he put it, “off 100 percent.” But cars were still
in there, and maybe people wanted them.
As streets reopened, car pooling into Manhattan was mandated during rush hours.
Bombs preyed on peoples’ minds. Many garages throughout the city began checking
trunks and jabbing mirrors on the ends of poles beneath cars. Some still do, but
in large part the practices are additional relics of the times.
“Yeah, I checked,” Mr. Ortega said.
Every trunk was searched. He acknowledged that he had no training in explosives,
didn’t know exactly what he was looking for, but he did every car for several
months, then those he didn’t recognize, the nonregulars, for nearly a year. Some
people were insulted, wouldn’t pop the trunk, and he turned them away. He never
found a thing.
The trade center site remains a conflicted construction project. But on North
Moore it is cars in, cars out, just as before.
“I never thought things would be the same again,” he said. “But, man, I was
wrong. We came back strong.”
The number was 343. Back in those awful days, Chief Charlie Williams, 9th
Battalion, Manhattan, thumbed down the death list looking for the firefighters
he could have said hello to by name: “Hi Tom, hi Joe, hi Ray.” After about 40,
he stopped. It was enough.
The loss of life to the Fire Department was staggering. Many asked, who would
put out the fires of tomorrow?
In addition to the deaths, there was a stampede of retirements. The wives didn’t
want to join the widows. And the expansive opportunity for overtime pay afforded
a tantalizing opportunity for firefighters to retire at bulgier pensions.
There were 11,339 uniformed members of the Fire Department on Sept. 10, 2001. By
Jan. 28, 2003, the ranks had declined to 10,630.
Chief Williams asked himself: “Do I want to go back and do this job?” His wife
would have liked him to walk away. But he wasn’t done.
Fresh recruits were rushed in. There was a long, difficult period. Even now, the
experience level is not the same. But there are 11,415 uniformed personnel, more
“The bell rings and the men put out the fires,” Chief Williams said. “The city
is well served.”
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the firefighters were elevated to superhuman
status. People flocked to the firehouses, wanting to shake hands with
firefighters, snap their pictures, just say thanks. Chief Williams obliged,
though he allowed how it got overbearing at times; he had to shut himself in his
office to do his work.
The bravery was always real. But the mythology — well, that, too, wasn’t going
to last. In the ensuing years, there were embarrassing incidents: the
firefighters who had sex with a woman at one Bronx firehouse, a drunken brawl at
another in Staten Island, on-duty drinking and drug use.
“The worship was definitely an inflated thing,” Chief Williams said. “You
couldn’t sustain that.”
His own lungs went bad on him, traced back to the trade center, and he retired
last year. He chose the date: Sept. 11.
The Flag Printer
People bought them from hardware stores and Wal-Mart and street vendors and
unfurled them outside their homes and on the antennas of their cars. They
billowed down the Henry Hudson and the F.D.R.
People wore their patriotism and defiance openly. A new cohesiveness, a oneness,
was going to remold the character of American citizenry.
Christopher Gravagna didn’t feel right that people had to buy their patriotism.
“That was ridiculous,” he said. “Why should people capitalize on flags at that
He had a printing business in Long Island City, Queens, doing work for clubs and
concerts. On Sept. 12, demand for his services essentially stopped and didn’t
resume for weeks. So he decided to print paper American flags with the motto
“United We Stand” and give them away. He and his employees handed out more than
He saw them everywhere.
“It helped feed this feeling that we have to be one, we have to be together on
this,” Mr. Gravagna said. “We’re a strong country. We’re strong New Yorkers.”
The flags — cloth and paper — are mostly gone. Some come out, as they always
did, on Memorial Day, on the Fourth of July, and on Sept. 11, but that is it.
That special mood? “It’s definitely diminished a lot,” Mr. Gravagna said. “Did I
expect it? No. But as a New Yorker, I understand it. I guess part of it has to
do with capitalism. In America, we have issues. And time passes. It just
No one, perhaps, displayed as many flags as Mr. Gravagna himself. He taped them
to the windows of his Queens apartment and in his Nissan Sentra. They festooned
After a while, they came down. The last one he possessed he had framed. He hung
it on his office wall. Four years ago, someone stole it.
The Skyscraper Dentist
“The windows here open,” Dr. Charles Weiss said.
He unlatched one. The view south was dazzling, as only a 1,000-foot-high view
can be. There was the Empire State Building and, way off, the Statue of Liberty
and Ellis Island, as well as a spot where two duplicate towers once stood.
On Sept. 12, it seemed no one would choose to work in a skyscraper again.
Especially those with the emblematic names, the ones everyone knew about,
high-rise terrorist bounty.
Workers stuffed parachutes under their desks, were given particle masks,
acquainted themselves with Geiger counters.
On Sept. 11, Dr. Weiss, a dentist, repaired teeth on the 69th floor of the
Chrysler Building, at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. He still does.
Capitulation was not his style. He recalled a book, “The Last Angry Man,” in
which a pugnacious Brooklyn doctor refuses to yield to the bums he calls
“galoots.” Dr. Weiss thought, as an assertion of faith, “I’m not going to let
the galoots get me.”
On Sept. 12, the Chrysler Building was essentially closed, but he got in. He
called patients to reschedule them. Some wanted some time before readdressing
their cavities. He didn’t see anyone until the following Monday.
As far as he knows, they all came back. The patients. The people who worked for
him. His colleagues who minded the other dental chairs on the floor.
There are always some squeamish patients who fear heights. Dr. Weiss, now 82,
dispatches a nurse down to the lobby to ride the elevator up with them. That
happened before Sept. 11, too.
Waiting patients now flipped through magazines as the drills sang.
“There’s a tremendous drive of human beings to make the most of life,” Dr. Weiss
said. “We’re not hermits. We rise up and move on.”
Dr. Weiss drank in the view some more, watched the ant cars crawling across the
ever-clogged city. “I never get tired of that view,” he said. “Never.”
A Fortress City That
Didn’t Come to Be, NYT, 11.9.2009,
Explaining 9/11 to a Muslim Child
September 11, 2009
The New York Times
By Lisa Belkin
This day will always bring more questions than answers. How to explain to
your child what happened on a crystalline morning eight years ago? And if your
child is Muslim, those questions have added layers, and more complicated
answers. In a guest blog today, Moina Noor (a freelance journalist who blogs
about public education at NorwalkNet.com) describes trying to make sense of it
for her young son, while still trying to understand it all herself.
Recently on the morning drive to school my 8-year-old son asked me a question
I’ve been dreading since he was a baby, “Mom, what happened on 9/11?”
Mass murder is impossible to explain to yourself, let alone a child. But how do
I, as a parent, explain the slaughter of innocent people in the name of a
religion that I am trying to pass on to my boy?
Bilal was just 8 months old when September 11 happened. He was just starting to
crawl and put everything in sight into his mouth, and I remember having to peel
my gaze away from the television screen and remind myself to keep a watchful eye
on where he lay nearby.
After Bilal was born I viewed everything — especially current events — through
the lens of parenthood. I knew the world had changed irreparably on 9/11, and
while I mourned the innocent and raged against my crazy coreligionists, my
nagging anxiety was for my son.
Even in those early surreal hours after the attacks when images of towers
falling and long-bearded men in caves flooded the television screen, I knew that
Bilal’s childhood would not be like mine.
When I was growing up in suburban Connecticut few people knew much about
Muslims, let alone cared. My parents and their friends would gather in community
rooms or church basements for our version of Sunday school. They were devout but
weren’t necessarily interested in teaching their neighbors about Islam. We were
few in number and invisible.
After 9/11, the spotlight was aimed at Muslims everywhere, especially here in
America. Like many Muslims, I felt the need to defend my religious identity. I
threw myself into all things Muslim, and explained and explained: “We are like
you. Islam is peaceful. Complex sociopolitical factors create lunatics who kill
people. Please don’t judge a billion people by a few bad apples.”
I hung tightly to my spiritual rope. I could not let go of a faith has given me
and my family comfort and solace for generations.
Since 9/11, I’ve worried how Bilal would feel about his identity as a Muslim
living in America. A survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public
Life appeared in 2007 stating that 35 percent of respondents had an unfavorable
opinion about Islam. Could one of those 3 in 10 people be Bilal’s teacher or
Over the past eight years I’ve read about Muslims being deported and pulled off
airplanes and mosques being vandalized. My sister, a former middle school
teacher in Brooklyn, heard kids taunt a Muslim student on the playground,
calling him a terrorist. And even though I fear the possibility of
discrimination for Bilal, what I fear most of all is that the din of
Islamophobia will rob my son of self-respect and confidence.
So just as I became an activist, I became a proactive Muslim mommy. When Bilal
was a preschooler, I took him to Muslim playgroups, organized activities in
Ramadan and bought him board books about the Prophet Muhammed. I pushed him in
his stroller at peace walks and brought him to interfaith events. These days, I
organize local Islamic school classes and give talks about the Hajj at his
elementary school. My husband and I read him books about Islamic contributions
to math and science.
Over the years, I’ve tried to protect my son from any negative associations made
with Islam. I’ve developed lightening quick reflexes — the second I hear a story
about suicide bombers or terrorists on the radio, I switch to a pop music
station. I’ve made my husband limit his CNN time to after the kids go to sleep.
I don’t want to have to answer the question, “Mom, what is the ‘threat of
radical Islamic extremism?’ ”
For me, the thought of talking to Bilal about terrorism is a bit like talking
about sex for the first time. It is awkward and difficult I’m just not sure how
much a child his age is ready to hear.
This year 9/11 falls during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. I made
Bilal watch President Obama’s five minute long “Ramadan Message to Muslims” on
the Internet. President Obama spoke with respect, knowledge and a sense optimism
to Muslims around the world. He found the speech interesting but nothing out of
the ordinary. For Bilal, who is just starting to become conscious of a world
bigger than our front yard, there is no “clash of civilizations”.
Bilal is proud to tell others that he was named after “the Prophet’s best
friend,” an African Muslim with a beautiful voice who gave the first call to
prayer. He is also a Cub Scout who has learned how to fold the American flag.
I did try and answer Bilal’s question. I relayed the day’s events in broad
cartoonish strokes: bad guys attack, buildings collapse. Don’t worry, I assured
him, we’ll get the bad guys so they won’t do it again. As I looked at Bilal in
the rearview mirror, I explained that good and bad exists in every group, even
your own. I think he understands.
Explaining 9/11 to a
Muslim Child, NYT, 11.9.2009,
Sept. 11 Steel
of Far-Flung Memorials
September 7, 2009
The New York Times
By MICHAEL WILSON
When Jeff Cox, a 15-year-old candidate for the rank of Eagle Scout in
Windermere, Fla., approached the small town’s mayor with park improvement ideas
to help earn a badge, the mayor informed him that those projects were already
“He came back and said, ‘Would the town like a memorial if I can get World Trade
Center steel?’ ” Mayor Gary Bruhn said. “I was stunned. I said, ‘Son, the town
would be elated to have something like that.’ He said, ‘I think I need the
town’s support. I don’t think they’re going to just give it to me.’”
No, they would not — but close. As the anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11,
2001, approaches on Friday, pieces of the World Trade Center rubble from that
day have never been more accessible. A new campaign is under way to speed up the
process and increase the volume of giving away pieces of steel big and small
from the debris.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the steel, will invite
police and fire departments and mayors and other leaders of cities and towns
throughout the country to ask for pieces for memorials. The Port Authority has
filled about 25 requests in the last year, and has about a dozen more pending.
In recent weeks, trucks have hauled twisted steel columns that weigh hundreds of
pounds to York, Pa., and Westerville, Ohio. A smaller piece was shipped to the
Air Defense offices of the United States Air Force in Rome, N.Y.
“The best way we can honor the memory of those we lost on 9/11 is to find homes
in the W.T.C. Memorial and in cities and towns around the nation for the
hundreds of artifacts we’ve carefully preserved over the years,” said the Port
Authority’s executive director, Christopher O. Ward.
The Port Authority hopes to generate more interest in the steel with new
advertisements in police, fire and municipal trade magazines. There are 1,800 to
2,000 pieces, half of them very large, which are available for carting away, at
the recipient’s expense. This does not include some 200 pieces, among them the
most familiar and iconic, that have been claimed by the National Sept. 11
Memorial and Museum.
Among the pending requests are one from Las Vegas, where the Atomic Testing
Museum wants a 79-inch piece to fit in its custom-made case, and one from
Eastern Kentucky University, which requested a piece one and a half feet long.
There is a also request from a group of fire departments in France.
“The Saint-Etienne fire brigade would very much like to exhibit an artefact from
the World Trade Center in order to pay tribute to the victims, civilian and fire
fighters of the 11th September attack,” wrote Col. Yves Bussiere, of the
regional fire department.
The pieces — some weighing tons, others little more than twisted sheets of metal
the size of a street sign — are stored at Hangar 17 at Kennedy International
Airport. The 80,000-square-foot hangar is divided by several large plastic
tents, where machines regulate the humidity so the steel doesn’t rust. In one
tent, a New York City police car sits crumpled in the corner, as if tossed
Lee Ielpi, president of the September 11 Families’ Association, is sending
letters to public safety agencies offering artifacts. “Any bona fide city, town,
county, state, corporations, other countries, France, Paris, Lyon, that would
want a piece of steel, it would behoove us to accommodate them,” he said.
In the years immediately following the attacks, donations of 9/11 artifacts
trickled out to various entities, but the requests were not handled by a single
organization, the Port Authority said. The agency requires a detailed
description in each request of how the steel will be displayed. Individuals
cannot receive artifacts, only cities or organizations. The requests that are
pending supplied detailed specifications for the pieces they want: “I am looking
for an ‘I’ beam roughly 8’ in length; however, anything that we could have would
mean more than words could ever express,” wrote Lt. Michael L. Zarella with the
fire department of Mendon, Mass. He visited and chose the piece he wanted, a
10-foot-long hunk of steel “twisted like a party streamer,” he said.
Requests for the steel must also be approved by Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of
Federal District Court, who is overseeing the wrongful death lawsuits stemming
from the attacks. While the steel is considered potential evidence in those
cases, tests on the steel were completed in 2005. The judge has since granted
all requests and has given no indication he will do otherwise for the pending
The requests are deferential. “All we need is a 1-foot-by-1-foot-by-4-feet tall
piece of steel,” read a letter from the mayor and the president of a memorial in
Glens Falls, N.Y. “It’s a small piece of steel to fill our big hearts.”
In Wichita, Kan., the Transportation Security Administration awaits shipment of
a 600-pound piece of steel. Officials plan to chop it into eight pieces and
display each piece in one of the state’s airports. “Most of these are really,
really small airports,” said Keith Osborn, the security director.
Steel will be displayed in two parks only about 20 miles apart in Ohio: one
beside the Westerville Fire Division Headquarters (“We plan on standing it up
and have it facing in the same direction it was when it was in New York, with
the north side facing in the right direction,” said a firefighter, Thomas C.
Ullom); the other in Hilliard, which selected three pieces. Both memorials will
be called First Responder Park.
On Friday, Jack Sommer, the president of Prospect Hill Cemetery in York, Pa.,
came to Hangar 17 to collect a piece, watching as a cemetery employee strapped a
chunk of steel, concrete and gnarled rebar to a trailer. In an added flourish,
the men had spread an American flag under the steel. A Port Authority police car
escorted them out.
In Windermere, a town of 3,000, the prospective Eagle Scout, Jeff Cox, got the
mayor’s support for his project and was waiting for his steel. He was just 7
when the attacks took place. “I wasn’t really sure what the building was, but it
kind of scared me,” he said. “No one was really sure what was going to happen.”
He said he has been promised a big piece. “They sent me about six options to
pick from,” he said. “I ended up taking part of a steel beam, about three and a
half or four feet, 650 pounds.”
Sept. 11 Steel Forms Heart of
Far-Flung Memorials, NYT, 7.9.2009,