Five Muslim immigrants accused of scheming to massacre U.S. Soldiers at Fort Dix were convicted of conspiracy Monday in a case that tested the FBI’s post-Sept. 11 strategy of infiltrating and breaking up terrorist plots in their earliest stages. The men could get life in prison when they are sentenced in April.
The five, who lived in and around Philadelphia for years, were found guilty of conspiring to kill U.S. military personnel. But they were acquitted of attempted murder, after prosecutors acknowledged the men were probably months away from an attack and did not necessarily have a specific plan. Four defendants were also convicted of weapons charges.
The federal jury deliberated for 38 hours over six days.
The government said after the arrests in 2007 that case underscored the dangers of terrorist plots hatched on U.S. soil. Although investigators said the conspirators were inspired by Osama bin Laden, they were not accused of any ties to foreign terror groups.
Defense lawyers argued that the alleged plot was all talk — that the men weren’t seriously planning anything and that they were manipulated and goaded by two paid FBI informants.
Faten Shnewer, the mother of defendant Mohamad Shnewer, said the informants should be the ones in jail. “Not my son and his friends. It’s not right, it’s not justice,” she said after the verdict. The government “sent somebody to push him to say something; that’s it.”
Convicted were: Shnewer, a Jordanian-born cab driver; Turkish-born convenience store clerk Serdar Tatar; and brothers Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka, ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslavia, who had a roofing business. A sixth man arrested and charged only with gun offenses pleaded guilty earlier.
The government said the men were targeting New Jersey’s Fort Dix for an attack but had also conducted surveillance at New Jersey’s Fort Monmouth, Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and other military installations, and had talked about assaulting some of those spots. The jury did not have to find that the men had any specific target in mind to convict them.
“These criminals had the capacity and had done preparations to do serious and grievous harm to members of our military,” Ralph Marra, the acting U.S. attorney for New Jersey, said after the verdict.
The government used a method that brought accusations of ‘entrapment’:
The FBI asked two informants — both foreign-born men who entered the U.S. illegally and had criminal records — to befriend the suspects. Both informants were paid and were offered help obtaining legal resident status.
I believe in using necessary methods, including the unorthodox, to get information. The only thing I’m curious about , besides the illegal entry, is the criminal records. I’d be interested in finding out what kind of crimes they committed, their countries of origin, and how they got in.
Aside from that, it’s obvious the six little jihadists had bloodshed in mind and would have most certainly harmed military personnel, on or off the base, had they put their plan into action. They didn’t need prodding from informants, they were already training for an assault.
During the eight-week trial, the government relied heavily on information gathered by the informants, who secretly recorded hundreds of conversations.
Prosecutors said the men bought several assault rifles supplied by the FBI and that they trekked to Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains to practice their shooting. The government also presented dozens of jihadist speeches and videos that the men supposedly used as inspiration.
Let’s hope they get lots of prison time…..in Leavenworth.