Thursday, September 01, 2005

 

Update: Los Angeles terror plot (thwarted)


I was talking with someone a few days ago about the threat of homegrown terrorists and terrorist enablers. They swore that I was just paranoid because I work in law enforcement, but it seems that I was right.

The federal indictment of four Los Angeles men for allegedly plotting a string of attacks on military and Jewish targets concerns officials because it suggests that Islamic extremists can take root in the
United States without the help of international terrorists, federal authorities said Wednesday.


"This summer, Americans watched so-called homegrown terrorists unleash multiple bombings in the city of London. Some in this country may have mistakenly believed that it could not happen here," U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales said at a Washington news conference to announce the
charges. "Today we have chilling evidence that it is possible."


Kevin Lamar James, 29; Levar Haney Washington, 25; and Gregory Vernon Patterson and Hammad Riaz Samana, both 21, were charged with crimes including conspiracy to kill U.S. and foreign government officials, firearms violations and conspiracy to levy war against the U.S. through
terrorism.


We're dealing with a few problems here. I have spent a lot of time, as have all of my colleagues, trying to prevent terror attacks in the United States; I've studied it, done my best to thwart it, and continue to research into the causes and effects of domestic and international terror. All in all, the amount of information surrounding terrorism and terrorist-related activities would make your head spin. You have the terrorists who are planning to commit the act, the people who support the terrorists and run clandestine operations, others who offer support by merely knowing what's going on without reporting it or tipping off people in my position to the jig, and then the foot soldiers who walk onto buses and subway and blow themselves up. For lack of a better term, it's a messy situation.

This is the same problem that we dealt with --- and still deal with --- when it comes to communists. It's a slim chance that you're going to come across someone who is actively campaigning as a communist. We busted someone under circumstances that you wouldn't expect, in that case, over the internet, who was actively conspiring against the United States. He was one man, yet he had dozens of supporters. Some provided logistical support, while the majority just gave him moral support, or refused to open their mouths each time he took another step in his plan to bring harm to the country. To put this into perspective, you see this same thing occur on a daily basis, only you wouldn't be able to put the pieces together without knowledge of what they're forming. Everyone has seen kids running around with Ernesto "Che" Guevara shirts. They're commonplace these days, and I'm willing to put money on it that most people who wear the shirts don't know who Guevara is, or the atrocities that he committed. However, there are supporters who look up to both Guevara and Fidel Castro, and believe in them wholeheartedly. This drops a definite problem in the lap of those of us in law enforcement; we have a First Amendment right to free speech in this county, which is undoubtedly one of the greatest things in the world. There aren't many countries that can compare to us when it comes to that single Amendment, and what it stands for. If someone wants to be a communist and stand on a corner preaching from Fidel's diary, they're more than welcome to.

A judge once told me, "... the biggest problem with the goofs who spew hate and propaganda is that they get tired of not being taken seriously, and sooner or later they act out." I can apply that directly to the communist-enablers. As in the case that I was talking about before, the assailtant was actively conspiring against the United States. His support group (the enablers) consisted of the typical Che Guevara wearing, "... my hero is Fidel Castro," -touting youths that I described above. They believed in the ideaology of Guevara and Castro, thus turning a blind eye to whatever the assailant was doing. While they didn't load any clips with ammo, not drive a car filled with explosives into a parking garage, by not acting, they essentially acted.

And this is the problem with homegrown terrorism in the United States today. There might not be many people who are willing to strap a bomb-vest to themselves and press the button on a DASH bus in Downtown Los Angeles, but they do have enablers who will be more than happy to look the other direction when the plot is being hatched. These enablers prevent law enforcement officers from completing investigations, or even turning up leads until wide-eyed citizens notice strange people taking pictures of the pier in Santa Monica, or surveillance tapes in the South Bay turn-up a match on suspected terrorists.

That is the fine line between free speech and committing a crime.

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