Checking in on Terror Arrests


Abdel Jabbar-Hamdan, a man who "has become a symbol for those who believe Muslims have been unfairly targeted in the government's war on terrorism" was released last night from federal prison in California. He had been a fundraiser for the Holy Land Foundation, which the government maintains funnels money to terrorist organization Hamas. The official charge under which he had been held without bond since July 2004, though, involved ovestaying a student visa from 1982. From an Orange County Register report:

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said the government will electronically monitor Hamdan and will try to deport him.

"Both the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals have previously held that Mr. Hamdan is deportable and subject to mandatory detention," said Lori Haley.

This Los Angeles Times story about Hamdan from a few days ago (before his release) discusses two other similar cases of terror cases turned immigration cases where held suspects have been released under court order recently.

While these cases involved support of terrorism as opposed to being an active "terror cell" that's a clear and present personal danger to American life, limb, and property, this seems an opportune time to mention that the Miami 7/Seas of David really ought to hire Jon Stewart as their defense attorney to humilate the case out of court.

In considering the thin yield of domestic terror arrests since 9/11, I wouldn't want–pace Steve Sailer!–to say there have been no "terror attacks" in the U.S. since then, thus making all the law enforcement panic effort purely silly. Sailer, in the last sentence's link, calls the recent Seattle Jewish Federation shooting such a terror attack, and reminds us of the LAX shooter on July 4, 2002.

Still, even the most Patriotic Actish of Americans might admit that a) these one-angry-man-and-a-gun actions aren't the sort of thing that post-9/11 law enforcement "everything's changed" changes were allegedly needed for and b) increased law enforcement efforts post-9/11 didn't do a thing to stop them.

I await the 2007 "Gunman Official Undoing and Security Act" (GO USA!)

NEXT: "Internet Celebrities, Let's Sing It Proud!"

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Minor nitpick: it’s Steve Sailer.

  2. Gentlemen,

    In response to this threat, I will immediately introduce legislation to address it: the

    Wresting Enemy Reactionaries Efforts to Fully Undertake Control of Killers Emergency Duties

    act, as it is called will finally clarify the reality of the situation, through nothing more than mnemonics, as it turns out.

  3. KM,

    You forgot an apostrophe. Other than that, very clever.

  4. I’m still wondering exactly why we should be so afraid of “terrorists”. Shit, I’d be more afraid of terrorists if I was in the army.

    And I thought we should be thinking about this war on terror from a military vantage point and not a crim justice vantage point. :/

  5. Here’s my essay on terrorism post 9/11:

    I’m not surprised that everything since 9/11 and the anthrax attacks have paled in comparison.

    9/11 was done by a group of guys who were all very disciplined, motivated, able to trust each other, and backed by enough money that they could spend more than a year devoting their full attention to very, very, very meticulous planning. That sort of thing requires (1) the support of a wealthy patron and (2) a supply of men who have been trained and indoctrinated in a very rigorous military-style process. The indoctrination is necessary so that they can trust each other while they plan, and the rigorous training is necessary so that they have the discipline to keep their noses to the grindstone and work through the detailed, meticulous planning that was required.

    By meticulous planning, I mean that in addition to flight school they apparently did a large number of practice flights as passengers. They flew the routes that they would ultimately fly on, and on the types of planes that they would ultimately hijack. They noted security procedures at different airports, they noted the ordinary in-flight procedures, and tried to familiarize themselves as much as possible with the details. Supposedly they even visited the WTC with a GPS device, scoping out the final target. That’s the mark of somebody who’s been well trained. An amateur would just go on board with a box-cutter and try to fight without knowing the layout of the plane or the schedule and routine of the flight attendants or the habits of the passengers.

    The training and indoctination camps in Afghanistan have apparently (hopefully?) been disrupted. There are still trained guerrilla fighters in Afghanistan, of course. Lots of them. But many of them are fighting for tribal or nationalist reasons, not the deep religious fanaticism that is necessary to forge an element of trust (or motivate somebody to move far away from his homeland and collaborate with young men who aren’t from his tribe). And guerrilla fighters accustomed to fighting in mountains may not operate as well in the West as young Arab men who grew up in cities, and only went to Afghanistan to acquire military discipline.

    As long as we keep their leadership (i.e. financial backers) on the run and prevent them from operating training camps, I doubt that we’ll see another group of disciplined and coordinated young men attack us on our soil any time soon.

    We’ll see some lone lunatics, of course, like the LAX shooter, acting out for reasons that may or may not qualify them as terrorists. We’ll see some amateurs who can’t even figure out how to make an improvised bomb, so they have to look for a mentor and wind up talking to an undercover FBI agent. We’ll probably encounter more guys like the guys who supposedly plotted to blow up a tunnel in NYC: Guys who had to meet each other over the internet because the training camps are no longer available for networking, and were so undisciplined that they discussed their terror plot in an internet forum.

    We might also see some slightly more savvy guys who figure out how to make improvised explosives and go about planting them without announcing their plans over the internet or seeking out an FBI informant. However, even those guys will probably lack the experience, discipline, and numbers to get the maximum effect from improvised explosives: They won’t have the savvy to identify and successfully infiltrate targets where a small bomb can do the most damage.

    The big thing we have going for us, unlike Europe, is that we are pretty good at assimilating young male immigrants from the Middle East. Our job market is much more dynamic, and our popular culture is the most infectious thing on the planet. An alienated teen of Middle Eastern descent doesn’t need to join the Jihad to rebel, not if he’s in the US. We have businesses that market clothes, music, posters, and other cultural goods with a calculated “rebel” image. Like Jason Ligon said, when his sister decided to rebel as a teen, she called herself an “anarchist” and wore all black while listening to certain bands. And somebody earned a nice profit by selling the requisite clothes, jewelry, and music. We have a system that actually makes money by providing would-be rebels with safe outlets.

    Of course, a few could slip through the cracks, fail to assimilate, and seek to attack us, but at least we’ve stacked the odds in our favor.

    The big danger is Iraq: There are a lot of guys learning how to effectively wield improvised explosives in urban areas. If some of them come over here, with the discipline, experience, and bonds of trust that they’ve built while fighting together, we could be in BIG trouble.

  6. thoreau,

    As long as we keep their leadership (i.e. financial backers) on the run and prevent them from operating training camps, I doubt that we’ll see another group of disciplined and coordinated young men attack us on our soil any time soon.

    Are you positing that the war in Afghanistan was an unequivocal success? That invading and toppling the Taliban regime scattered al Qaeda and drove them far enough underground that we need not worry about them?
    I won’t say that taking out the Qaeda-sheltering Taliban wasn’t the right play, although I don’t know that I could have pulled that trigger if it had been mine to pull.
    But I still worry.
    Aren’t they remarkable for the patience they have always shown? Why should we believe that since we haven’t heard from them, we probably won’t?

    I agree with you regarding homegrown terrorists. Everyone ends up American if they stay long enough, and even Americans with genuine grievances can be distracted easily.
    I agree with you regarding Iraq, and I would add to that:
    We have destabilized, no, we have contributed to the destabilization of the Middle East to the extent that I fear that few countries there will know peace for long. Say what you will about secular oppressive regimes and religious oppressive regimes, homegrown peace & order are preferable to imported war & chaos.

  7. Rex–Indeed it is; apologies to Mr. Sailer and readers.

  8. highnumber-

    I won’t say that it’s been a perfect success. But having thought about it, there’s a big difference between an angry and violent young man organizing with a few like-minded friends, and that same young man acting with the guidance of a mentor who can instill discipline and patience. And there’s a big difference between that angry young man doing his own recruiting (taking the risk that one of his friends or neighbors will realize how crazy he is and turn him in) and that angry young man going to a known gathering place for radicals who can be trusted.

    If we disrupt the infrastructure for training, if we make it harder for them to gather and recruit, if we follow money trails and monitor known leaders (not the same thing as tapping 300 million phones, for all the NSA apologists), then we can almost completely eliminate the risk of sophisticated attacks that require a large number of disciplined people working together. Those attacks could be either one big dramatic attack (like 9/11) or a steady drumbeat of small attacks (improvised bombs in cities across the country).

    The drumbeat of small attacks may seem easy, and in many ways it would be: All they have to do is go where they’re told, build an improvised bomb, and then wait for a signal. But they have to be reliable people. The people organizing it have to know that they’ve been indoctrinated and are committed, and that they aren’t undercover cops or spies. The organizers have to know that these guys will scope out the target competently, assemble and plant the bomb competently, and keep their mouths shut until the signal is sent. None of these things are rocket science, but something could go wrong at any stage, and you need a patient and disciplined person to see it all through.

    If terrorists find it hard to gather, train, recruit, and send money, then what we’re left with is solo acts.

  9. But now we come back to Iraq: Angry young radicals might not have access to the formal training atmosphere of camps in Afghanistan, but we now have a Darwinian process in Baghdad for producing terrorists who are competent at using improvised bombs in urban areas. And those who work together and stay alive will obviously learn to trust each other.

    Instead of terrorists from a terrorism academy in Afghanistan, we may face terrorists trained in the Baghdad School of Hard Knocks.

    That scares the hell out of me.

  10. Some like to divide America into two catagories, Pre and Post 9/11. I don’t buy it. It’s as if one day it was decided we have too much freedom in a scary world and daddy government must watch us 24/7 to protect us.

    The truth is that a well organized, well constructed, well executed mission will succeed 99% of the time.

    Terrorism can not run me out of NYC. Anti-terrorim will. As soon as I really feels like Big Brother, I’m outta here.

  11. Ah, but thoreau, what are the survival characteristics for an Iraqi insurgent? I daresay that the ability to lay low, run away, or give up the profession are much more survival traits than using effective guerrilla tactics. In fact, the better you are at blowing stuff up, the more likely it is that you will, in turn, get blown up. Where the U.S. is running into trouble is from the large population of sufficiently disgruntled people, not from a cadre of deadly soldiers.

    Now I’m not suggesting that battle-hardened veterans aren’t more dangerous–they are–but we’re not exactly strengthening the general population of insurgents by slaughtering them, either.

  12. Terrorist attacks has been a worldwide problem, but care is everyone’s peace mission, is everyone’s responsibility.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.