Alaiwah : Dawn Editor Ziauddin Explains His Position

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dawn Editor Ziauddin Explains His Position

Mohammed Ziauddin | January 31, 2008 [space added; typos corrected]

You see I had the prerogative to ask a question and he had the prerogative to snub me.

He actually called my patriotism in question for asking how can our nuclear assets be safe and a thorough enquiry be conducted into Benazir’s assassination when we cannot even keep a proper watch on a suspected terrorist like Rashid Rauf.

He said I was casting aspersions on Pakistan and that with Pakistanis like me Pakistan did not need any enemies.

I felt bad but did not mind it at all because I have had the dubious distinction of being snubbed by politicians a number of times in my career of 40 years.

But then what takes the cake is his address to the Pakistani Community later. Here he incited the community to violence against me ("Aisey Logoon to aik do tikka dina chahiay" -- "Such persons be given a couple of slaps" or "thrashed" or whatever he meant by "tikka dina chahiay".)

Daily Times : Lawyers appeal for support on Iftikhar Day

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Lawyers appeal for support on Iftikhar Day

Staff Report | January 30, 2008

KARACHI: Youm-e-Iftikhar will be held January 31 in honour of chief justice of Pakistan (retd) Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to draw national and international attention, said Justice (retd) Rasheed A. Razvi, president of the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA).

He said this Tuesday while addressing a joint press conference managed and attended by the Karachi Bar Association (KBA), SHCBA, Malir Bar Association (MBA), Sindh Bar Council, Pakistan Bar Council and the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan (SCBAP).

Razvi was accompanied by KBA Honorary Secretary Naeem Qureshi, KBA President Mehmood-ul-Hasan and members of the newly elected KBA Managing Committee at Shuhda-e-Punjab Hall.

He said that Chaudhry and ten judges of the apex court have been in custody since November 3, when the emergency was imposed. “Ninety days have passed but the superior court judges are still in detention along with our leaders, such as Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, Ali Ahmed Kurd and Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood,” he said.

Giving details on the programmes planned for Iftikhar Day, he said that a joint general body of members from all the representative lawyer bodies would be held at the SHCBA’s premises on January 31, which he added is being observed as Iftikhar Day all over the country.

The PBC has also endorsed the call by the SHCBA and KBA. Strike, protest meetings and marches would be arranged in every nook and corner of the country, he said. He said that besides the guests from Lahore and Rawalpindi, a number of retired judges from Sindh would also attend the joint general body meeting and address it, but, their names cannot be disclosed right now to prevent law enforcers from taking action. Some of the most wanted criminals such as Rashid Rauf flee from custody or are allowed to slip away, but, the personalities who are symbols of patriotism and who always fight for the rule of law are in illegal dentition, the SHCBA president told the reporters. KBA Honorary Secretary Naeem Qureshi earlier stated that the joint press conference was aimed at endorsing the joint decision to observe January 31 as Youm-e-Iftikhar. As per the programme, all elected members of the KBA would meet at the SHC where a joint general body meeting will be held, he added.

The lawyers will then march up to the Karachi Press Club where leaders would address them. Members of the representative lawyer bodies will bring with them placards and banners demanding an independent judiciary, etc, he said, vowing to continue the struggle till the restoration of the judiciary’s pre-November 3 state. “We have approached all the trade unions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and student organization to make the day a success, he said. The nation needs free, fair and transparent elections and full scale democracy, which is not possible without an independent judiciary, he added.

To a question, he said that all the major political parties support the lawyers’ demands regarding the judiciary and judges.

Rolling Stone: Truth or Terrorism? The Real Story Behind Five Years of High Alerts

Monday, January 28, 2008

Truth or Terrorism? The Real Story Behind Five Years of High Alerts

A history of the Bush administration's most dubious terror scares — and the headlines they buried

TIM DICKINSON | January 22, 2008

"Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. There were times when some people in the administration were really aggressive about raising the threat level, and we said, 'For that?!'"
— Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, May 2005

The Bush administration has never shied from playing the fear card to distract the American public from scandal or goad them into supporting a deeply flawed foreign policy. Here a history of the administration's most-dubious terror alerts — including three consecutive Memorial Day scare-a-thons — all of which proved far less terrifying than the screamer headlines they inspired.


February 12, 2002

The Threat: Yemenite terrorist set to attack U.S. — today! "I want, to encourage... all Americans everywhere to be on the highest state of alert," warns Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The Reality: The threat hadn't been corroborated by U.S. intelligence agencies — and the evidence actually pointed to an attack not in the U.S., but in Yemen.

The Real News: Announced the same day that Enron CEO Ken Lay appeared before Congress, and a week after the White House was instructed not to destroy its Enron-related documents.


May 19-27, 2002

The Threat: Dick Cheney kicks off Memorial Day weekend by calling a new Al Qaeda strike "almost a certainty — it could happen tomorrow." FBI Director Robert Mueller adds, "There will be another terrorist attack." The FBI warns of strikes on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.

The Reality: The administration "made a political decision" to make public all threats — even those from "hoaxers," says a retired CIA counterterrorism expert. "The amount of chatter hasn't changed in volume," adds a defense official. As for the New York threats, "There really isn't any hard information," declares the former head of the FBI bureau in New York.

The Real News: The administration's failures in preventing 9/11 were under the microscope: Bush acknowledged receiving a briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." a month before the attacks; the FAA said it had failed to alert airlines of the arrest of would-be hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui; the FBI admitted it had ignored a pre-9/11 warning that Al Qaeda had infiltrated American flight schools.


June 10, 2002

The Threat: U.S.-born Al Qaeda agent captured. John Ashcroft interrupts a trip to Russia to brag on live TV of bagging "a known terrorist who was exploring a plan to build and explode a 'dirty bomb' in the United States."

The Reality: The suspect, Jose Padilla, had actually been in custody for a month. The "dirty bomb" allegations were so flimsy that they were dropped after the administration agreed to try the case in federal court rather than in a military tribunal.

The Real News: The threat was announced four days after FBI whistle-blower Coleen Rowley testified before Congress that 9/11 might have been prevented if the FBI flight-school warning had reached federal agents investigating Moussaoui.


September 10, 2002

The Threat: Bush personally announces the first nationwide Orange Alert. Cheney flees to a "secure location" as Ashcroft warns that Al Qaeda appears to be targeting "transportation and energy sectors."

The Reality: There was no specific threat against any American target.

The Real News: The heightened terror alert went into effect just in time for the president's address to the nation from Ellis Island on the first anniversary of 9/11.


February 7, 2003

The Threat: Orange Alert. CIA Director George Tenet calls the threat "the most specific we have seen" since 9/11; says Al Qaeda may use a "radiological dispersal device, as well as poisons and chemicals."

The Reality: The alert, accompanied by a warning to stock up on plastic sheets and duct tape, was debunked within days; the main source failed an FBI polygraph. Threat level remained stuck on orange for two more weeks.

The Real News: The alert followed less than forty-eight hours after Colin Powell's speech to the United Nations in which he falsely accused Saddam Hussein of harboring Al Qaeda and training terrorists in the use of chemical weapons.


March 17, 2003

The Threat: Orange Alert. FBI warns of terror strikes by Saddam or "allied or sympathetic terrorist organizations, most notably the Al Qaeda network."

The Reality: Claim debunked by future CIA director Porter Goss, then chair of House intelligence committee: No intel suggests new attack.

The Real News: Nation's third Orange Alert came three days before Bush invaded Iraq, opening what he called the "central front of the War on Terror."


May 20, 2003

The Threat: For a second Memorial Day in a row, country is placed on Orange Alert following warning that "Al Qaeda has entered an operational period worldwide."

The Reality: No specific threat ever cited; alert issued because of what the Department of Homeland Security calls "the heightened vulnerability associated with the Memorial Day holiday."

The Real News: Two weeks after Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq, administration's plan to implement Iraq, self-rule was postponed "indefinitely" due to looting and lawlessness.


July 29, 2003

The Threat: Homeland Security warns that new, 9/11-like strikes are in the works: "At least one of these attacks could be executed by the end of the summer."

The Reality: Not one of the alleged attacks ever materialized.

The Real News: Days earlier, the Bush administration revealed that the CIA forewarned the president about the lack of evidence for his claim that Saddam was seeking uranium from Africa.


December 21, 2003

The Threat: Orange Alert for the holidays. Ridge warns that threat of attack is "perhaps greater now than at any point since 9/11." Six flights are canceled; several passengers match terror watch list.

The Reality: The supposed "terrorists" included a Welsh insurance salesman, an elderly Chinese woman and a kindergartner.

The Real News: The alert came after 9/11 Commission chair Tom Kean suggested the 9/11 attacks could have been thwarted. Bush is also under fire for failing to find weapons of mass destruction.


May 26, 2004

The Threat: Memorial Day again: "They are going to attack and hit us hard," warns a senior intelligence official. Ashcroft relays an Al Qaeda threat that "ninety percent of the arrangements for an attack in the United States were complete."

The Reality: The threat Ashcroft attributed to Al Qaeda was actually made by a discredited group that falsely claimed credit for the Madrid train bombings. This group "is not really taken seriously by Western intelligence," says one expert.

The Real News: The Abu Ghraib torture scandal has come to a full boil.


June 14, 2004

The Threat: A shopping mall in Columbus, Ohio, is threatened by Al Qaeda bomber. "The American heartland was targeted for death and destruction," Ashcroft declares.

The Reality: The Somali suspect whose indictment Ashcroft trumpeted had been in custody for seven months. The charges against him made no mention of a shopping mall.

The Real News: John Kerry leads Bush by seven points in early Ohio polling.


July 8, 2004

The Threat: Tom Ridge warns that "Al Qaeda is moving forward with its plans to carry out a large-scale attack in the United States in an effort to disrupt our democratic process."

The Reality: The plot did not exist: Says a top European spy, "I am aware of no intelligence, nothing that shows there will be an attack before the U.S. presidential election."

Real News: Two days earlier, John Kerry tapped John Edwards as his running mate.


August 1, 2004

The Threat: Orange Alert. Citing "new and unusually specific" intelligence, Ridge details a threat to the Citigroup building and the New York Stock Exchange. Adds Bush, "We wouldn't be, you know, contacting authorities at the local level unless something was real."

The Reality: The president allowed his own daughters to do a photo-op at one of the targeted buildings. Perhaps that's because the "new" intelligence was actually three years old. "There is nothing right now that we're hearing that is new," says a senior law-enforcement official. Real News: Alert came three days after Kerry took the Democratic nomination at the party's convention in Boston.


October 6, 2005

The Threat: FBI warns of Al Qaeda subway bombing "on or about October 9th, 2005." Bush claims to have foiled ten terror plots since 9/11.

The Reality: A counter-terrorism official calls the warning unfounded: "There was no there there." None of the plots cited by Bush were operational.

The Real News: Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court is failing.


June 23, 2006

The Threat: Miami-based terrorists plotting to topple the Sears Tower. "These homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like Al Qaida," says Alberto Gonzales.

The Reality: FBI Deputy Director John Pistole terms plot “more aspirational than operational.” Suspects armed to the teeth — with paintball guns — attempted to secure Al Qaeda funds at local 7-11.

The Real News: Abu Musab Al Zarqawi had been killed days earlier — removing the villain who was then America's poster boy of terror.


July 7, 2006

The Threat: New York Daily News breaks news of plot to bomb Holland Tunnel, flood Wall Street. FBI Assistant Director Mark Mershon calls threat "the real deal."

The Reality: Suspect had been arrested three months earlier, after bragging about his planned exploits in an Internet chat room. Said one CIA officer, "The plot, if that is what we would call it, was not well conceived, and there was no possibility of flooding Wall Street. There was no connection to a cell in the US. Finally, professional terrorists generally do not discuss targeting on open channels."

The Real News: News of plot leaked to coincide with the first anniversary of the July 7, 2005 London bombings.


July 10, 2007

The Threat: Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff warns of his "gut feeling" that the U.S. is entering "a period of increased vulnerability" of attack from terrorists: “Summertime seems to be appealing to them.”

The Reality: Chertoff subsequently confessed, "We don't have specific intelligence about an attack, that is, a particular attack against the homeland, that is imminent or scheduled for the summer."

The Real News: Two days later, the intelligence community revealed Al Qaeda's strength was "undiminished" in spite of six years of the "War on Terror."

Anonymous Email: Angry Woman

Monday, January 28, 2008

[We have a new Champion! Here's the most ignorant and vicious piece of horse manure I have ever read. Preserved here for posterity. I may choose to write about it some day. -- WP]
Letter : from one "Angry Woman"

I don't know who wrote it but they should have signed it. Some powerful words. This woman should run for president.

Written by a housewife from New Jersey and sounds like it! This is one ticked off lady.

Are we fighting a war on terror or aren't we? Was it or was it not started by Islamic people who brought it to our shores on September 11, 2001?

Were people from all over the world, mostly Americans, not brutally murdered that day, in downtown Manhattan, across the Potomac from our nation's capitol and in a field in Pennsylvania ?

Did nearly three thousand men, women and children die a horrible, burning or crushing death that day, or didn't they?

And I'm supposed to care that a copy of the Koran was "desecrated" when an overworked American soldier kicked it or got it wet? Well, I don't. I don't care at all.

I'll start caring when Osama bin Laden turns himself in and repents for incinerating all those innocent people on 9/11.

I'll care about the Koran when the fanatics in the Middle East start caring about the Holy Bible, the mere possession of which is a crime in Saudi Arabia.

I'll care when these thugs tell the world they are sorry for hacking off Nick Berg's head while Berg screamed through his gurgling slashed throat.

I'll care when the cowardly so-called "insurgents" in Iraq come out and fight like men instead of disrespecting their own religion by hiding in mosques.

I'll care when the mindless zealots who blow themselves up in search of nirvana care about the innocent children within range of their suicide bombs.

I'll care when the American media stops pretending that their First Amendment liberties are somehow derived from international law instead of the United States Constitution's Bill of Rights.

In the meantime, when I hear a story about a brave marine roughing up an Iraqi terrorist to obtain information, know this: I don't care.

When I see a fuzzy photo of a pile of naked Iraqi prisoners who have been humiliated in what amounts to a college-hazing incident, rest assured: I don't care.

When I see a wounded terrorist get shot in the head when he is told not to move because he might be booby-trapped, you can take it to the bank: I don't care.

When I hear that a prisoner, who was issued a Koran and a prayer mat, and fed "special" food that is paid for by my tax dollars, is complaining that his holy book is being "mishandled," you can absolutely believe in your heart of hearts: I don't care.

And oh, by the way, I've noticed that sometimes it's spelled "Koran" and other times "Quran." Well, Jimmy Crack Corn and-you guessed it-I don't care !!

If you agree with this viewpoint, pass this on to all your E-mail friends. Sooner or later, it'll get to the people responsible for this ridiculous behavior!

If you don't agree, then by all means hit the delete button. Should you choose the latter, then please don't complain when more atrocities committed by radical Muslims happen here in our great Country! And may I add:

"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don't have that problem" -- Ronald Reagan

I have another quote that I would like to add AND......I hope you forward all this.

"If we ever forget that we're One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under." Also by Ronald Reagan

One last thought for the day:

In case we find ourselves starting to believe all the Anti-American sentiment and negativity, we should remember England's Prime Minister Tony Blair's words during a recent interview. When asked by one of his Parliament members why he believes so much in America, he said: "A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at how many want in... And how many want out."

Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you:
1. Jesus Christ
2. The American G. I.

One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.


WaPo : Democracy Activists Disappointed in Bush

Monday, January 28, 2008

Democracy Activists Disappointed in Bush

Mideast Tour Seen as Failure To Revive Earlier Emphasis; Economic Woes Grow Urgent

By Ellen Knickmeyer | Washington Post Foreign Service | January 17, 2008

CAIRO, Jan. 16 -- President Bush on Wednesday ended a Middle East tour that political activists saw as lacking the strong calls for democratization made earlier in his administration, disappointing those once encouraged by the statements of American leaders. In Egypt and elsewhere, people are growing more concerned with food than with rights.

"Where is democracy now?" demanded Hibba Hanaty, a 42-year-old homemaker, at a political rally early this week in Cairo that drew only dozens of demonstrators, instead of the thousands who turned out in 2005, when the United States was pushing authoritarian Arab governments toward free elections.

Riot police at the rally, their transparent face shields tilted up on their helmets, outnumbered demonstrators. Some of the officers leaned in, curiously, to hear Hanaty's words.

"Everything is so expensive," Hanaty said. She cradled a toddler, her son, whose life has encompassed the rise and fall of Egypt's democracy movement.

On Wednesday, after discussions with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Bush commended him for progress. "You have taken steps toward economic openness . . . and political reforms," Bush said.

But Hisham Kassem, an Egyptian political activist who last year received a U.S. National Endowment for Democracy award, was left dispirited by Bush's tour. The year 2005 "was the best year in my life, politically. . . . Our hopes were way up there," Kassem said. "But -- it was just another story."

Anger grew in his voice. "Bush, as far as American foreign policy vis-a-vis democracy, civil rights, is right back to square one," Kassem added. "This trip marks it."

As hopes for democratic change fade in the Middle East, demands for economic improvements have grown stronger. Inflation, caused in part by rising oil prices, is making life harder for the poor in much of the region.

Egyptian workers launched more than 300 strikes over the past year to demand higher wages or lower prices. Unlike the political protests now, the wage strikes have drawn thousands of people, sometimes tens of thousands.

In 2005, Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice helped create as much of a democratic fervor as the Middle East had ever seen, democracy activists said. Rice vowed support for "the democratic aspirations of all people."

Arab governments and peoples took notice. Egypt, where Mubarak has held power for 2¿ decades, allowed other candidates to challenge him in the 2005 presidential election. Observers regarded the first rounds of parliamentary elections that year as fair.

But Islamic parties shocked many with strong showings in 2005 and 2006 elections in the Palestinian territories, Egypt and Lebanon.

Angered by U.S. policy toward Iraq and the Palestinians, Arab activists never gave Bush much credit for his democratization pressure. But they noticed when it slackened.

Middle East democracy activists these days say they wonder whether the United States has returned to the formula that Rice renounced in 2005: valuing the stability of autocratic Arab governments over the uncertainty of elected ones.

"We're already believers in what we're doing. But is there a partner there? Or are we alone in this now?" asked Rola Dashti, a candidate in Kuwait's 2006 elections, the first in which women there could vote, in a telephone interview from Kuwait City. Bush met with Dashti and other female political leaders in Kuwait during his trip.

On Wednesday in Sharm el-Sheikh, Bush made no public mention of Ayman Nour, the politician jailed by Egypt after he challenged Mubarak in the 2005 election, finishing a distant second. Nour's supporters accuse the government of trumping up the charges -- forging election petitions -- that sent Nour to prison.

Bush also made no public mention of human rights in Egypt, a country where complaints of police torture remain widespread.

In parliamentary elections this summer, riot police openly blocked voters in some opposition areas from entering polling stations. Authorities jailed Egyptian newspaper editors and bloggers for criticizing Mubarak, 79, or speculating on the state of his health.

Activists also accuse Mubarak's National Democratic Party of manipulating constitutional changes since the 2005 elections to ensure that only his party can field a viable candidate for president. Mubarak's son, Gamal, is seen as his most likely successor.

Bush spoke more forcefully on human rights while in the United Arab Emirates. Egyptians saw references to Egypt, and Nour, when Bush said, "You cannot build trust when you hold an election where opposition candidates find themselves harassed or in prison.

"You cannot expect people to believe in the promise of a better future when they are jailed for peacefully petitioning their government," he added. "And you cannot stand up a modern and confident nation when you do not allow people to voice their legitimate criticisms."

But activists said Bush was settling for less when he declined in the same speech to repeat the strong demands of the past for free elections -- emphasizing instead the importance of civic institutions such as universities and places of worship.

With Egypt's political opposition crushed since 2005, only Islamic movements, which already maintain networks of clinics and other aid for Egypt's poor, are positioned to exploit the economic unrest if they choose, said Kassem, the democracy activist.

Egypt "is failing economically," he said. "It's a question of time before there is a disaster, and when that happens, the only alternative in front of the people is the Brotherhood," he said, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is officially outlawed but tolerated within limits.

"This is what will shake the Mubarak regime," Kassem added. "Not the politicians."

Many here remember one central fact about the breaking point of the poor: Egyptians have risen up by the millions only once in recent decades -- in 1977, over rising bread prices.

On Monday night, protester Abdel Aziz el-Hosseiny thought back on the crowds of 2005, and 1977, as the few dozen other demonstrators with him melted away.

As a college student in 1977, Hosseiny watched as homemakers and shopkeepers joined students and workers to force the government to roll back bread prices.

In 2005, he was a leader of Egypt's democracy coalition. He watched the coalition draw thousands during the height of international pressure, then watched it all fall apart because of government reprisals and internal divisions.

"I'm hopeful it will all come back," Hosseiny said as the only other remaining protester -- a man dressed as the Grim Reaper -- made his exit. Riot police, the last to go, got into blue vans.

"But not only to change the bread prices," Hosseiny said. "To change the government."

Staff writer Michael Abramowitz in Sharm el-Sheikh contributed to this report.

Rolling Stone : The Fear Factory

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Fear Factory

The FBI now has more than 100 task forces devoted exclusively to fighting terrorism. But is the government manufacturing ghosts?

GUY LAWSON | January 25, 2008

"So, what you wanna do?" the friend asked. "A target?" the wanna-be jihadi replied. "I want some type of city-hall-type stuff, federal courthouses."

It was late November 2006, and twenty-two-year-old Derrick Shareef and his friend Jameel were hanging out in Rockford, Illinois, dreaming about staging a terrorist attack on America. The two men weren't sure what kind of assault they could pull off. All Shareef knew was that he wanted to cause major damage, to wreak vengeance on the country he held responsible for oppressing Muslims worldwide. "Smoke a judge," Shareef said. Maybe firebomb a government building.

But while Shareef harbored violent fantasies, he was hardly a serious threat as a jihadi. An American-born convert to Islam, he had no military training and no weapons. He had less than $100 in the bank. He worked in a dead-end job as a clerk in a video-game store. He didn't own a car. So dire were his circumstances, Shareef had no place to live. Then one day, Jameel, a fellow Muslim, had shown up at EB Games and offered him shelter. Within hours of meeting his new brother, Shareef had moved in with Jameel and his three wives and nine children. Living together, the pair fantasized about targets in Rockford, a Midwestern city of 150,000, with a minuscule Muslim population and the lone claim to fame of being the hometown of Cheap Trick.

The fact that Shareef was a loser with no means of living out his imagination didn't stop his friend from encouraging his delusions of grandeur. On the contrary, Jameel continually pushed Shareef to escalate his plans. "When you wanna plan on doing this?" he asked Shareef, talking about the plot to go after a government building. "Because we have to make specific plans and dates."

"I wanna case one first," Shareef said. There was only one problem: Jameel's car was in the garage getting repaired. "We can case one when you get the car back."

"What about time frame?" Jameel prodded.

"I like the holiday season," Shareef said, displaying an ambivalence unusual in a suicide bomber hellbent on murdering civilians. "Hell, we ain't gotta hit nobody —just blow the place up."

Finding a meaningful target to blow up in Rockford isn't easy. A hardscrabble town in the middle of America, the place is not much more than an intersection of interstates and railway lines, with little of note that might attract the attention of terrorists. So Jameel suggested the main attraction in town: CherryVale Mall, a sad-sack collection of clothing stores and sneaker shops on the outskirts of Rockford. "The mall's good," he told Shareef.

"I swear by Allah, man, I'm down for it too," Shareef said. "I'm down for the cause. I'm down to live for the cause and die for the cause, man."

When Jameel got his car back from the garage, the two men went to case the mall.

"If you ever wanna back out . . . 'cause, you gotta let me know," Jameel said. "I'm checking your heart now."

"I'm down," Shareef said.

"We ain't gonna get caught," Jameel assured him. "Don't worry."

"I'm not worried about getting caught," Shareef replied. "Not alive."

For all his bluster, Shareef was, by any objective measure, a pathetic and hapless jihadist — one of a new breed of domestic terrorists the federal government has paraded before the media since 9/11. The FBI, in a sense, elevated Shareef, working to transform him from a boastful store clerk into a suicidal mall-bomber. Like many other alleged extremists who have been targeted by the authorities, Shareef didn't know that his brand-new friend —the eager co-conspirator drawing him ever further into a terror plot —was actually an informant for the FBI.

As Shareef cursed America and Jews, he was under almost constant surveillance by the Joint Terrorism Task Force for the Northern District of Illinois. Since 9/11, the number of such outfits across the country has tripled. With more than 2,000 FBI agents now assigned to 102 task forces, the JTTFs have effectively become a vast, quasi-secret arm of the federal government, granted sweeping new powers that outstrip those of any other law-enforcement agency. The JTTFs consist not only of local police, FBI special agents and federal investigators from Immigration and the IRS, but covert operatives from the CIA. The task forces have thus effectively destroyed the "wall" that historically existed between law enforcement and intelligence-gathering. Under the Bush administration, the JTTFs have been turned into a domestic spy agency, like Britain's MI5 —one with the powers of arrest.

The expenditure of such massive resources to find would-be terrorists inevitably requires results. Plots must be uncovered. Sleeper cells must be infiltrated. Another attack must be prevented —or, at least, be seen to be prevented. But in backwaters like Rockford, the JTTFs don't have much to do. To find threats to thwart, the task forces have increasingly taken to using paid informants to cajole and inveigle targets like Shareef into pursuing their harebrained schemes. In the affidavit sworn by an FBI special agent in support of Shareef's indictment, the co-conspirator who called himself Jameel is known only as "CS" (Cooperating Source). In fact, CS was William Chrisman, a former crack dealer with a conviction for attempted robbery who was paid $8,500 by the JTTF and dispatched specifically to set up Shareef. Like other informants in terrorism cases, Chrisman had been "tasked" by federal agents to indulge and escalate Shareef's fantasies — while carefully ensuring that Shareef incriminated himself.

"The hope is that they will nab an actual terrorist or prevent a putative jihadi from becoming one," says David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University and co-author of Less Safe, Less Free, a new book detailing the ways 9/11 has transformed domestic law enforcement. "It makes sense in general —but when you're pressing people to undertake conduct they would have never undertaken without an informant pushing them along, there is a real question if you're creating crime, not preventing crime."

In Rockford, "Jameel" repeatedly urged Shareef to dream up gory details of the havoc they would cause at the mall. Chrisman had received a call, he told Shareef, from a man he called "Cap" —a contact willing to sell them weapons. They could buy "pineapples" —code for hand grenades —from Cap for fifty bucks each. Cap, of course, was an undercover agent. Eleven "pineapples" were available, Chrisman said. Walking around the mall —the Dippin' Dots, the Panda Express —Shareef suggested they toss the "pineapples" in garbage cans to create shrapnel. They would fast for three days beforehand. They would shave their bodies. They would meditate and pray.

"Don't forget, man, we should get the grenades sometime next week," Chrisman said. "So you should try to get as much flous [money] as you can get."

"I got a little change in the bank," Shareef said.

"All you need is, like, $100. That's two grenades."

But the resourceless Shareef couldn't even raise that much money. So with the JTTF determined to push the "plot" forward, Chrisman announced that Cap had agreed to exchange the grenades for some used stereo speakers Shareef owned. On the following Saturday, as snow blanketed Rockford, Chrisman and Shareef engaged in the ritual of suicide bombers, recording video statements of each other reciting their last wills and testaments. The JTTF's affidavit doesn't reveal whose idea it was to stare into the camera and swear vengeance against America, but the prejudicial impact it would have on a jury was huge.

"My name is Talib Abu Salam Ibn Shareef," Shareef said, using his self-created nom de guerre. "I am from America, and this tape is to let you guys know, who disbelieve in Allah, to let the enemies of Islam know, and to let the Muslims alike know that the time for jihad is now."

The next Wednesday, the two men met with Cap in a parking lot under the gaze of agents from the JTTF. As Shareef swapped the used speakers for four nonfunctioning grenades and a 9mm handgun with neutered ammunition, he was swarmed by law enforcement. News of the bust traveled the world over. "It had all the makings of a holiday bloodbath," Fox News breathlessly reported. Shareef was charged with the ultimate crime in the so-called War on Terror: attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

The arrest of Shareef was yet another JTTF success, with the homeland again saved from a savage attack, this time from a man the government branded a "lone wolf."

Or it was an illusion, a fictional plot developed in a self-fulfilling and self-serving cycle of chasing ghosts.

For law enforcement, fear and the politics of fear have entwined to create a radical new paradigm. Even the term "law enforcement" has been rendered quaint by the Bush administration. These days, the term of art is "lawfare" —the confluence of police work and military tactics. With Joint Terrorism Task Forces set up across the country to coordinate the work of federal agencies and local cops, the FBI now devotes nearly two-thirds of its resources —some $4 billion —to waging war on terrorism. The approach today is not the traditional police work of investigating actual crimes but the far more slippery goal of preventing terrorist attacks before they occur.

To hear the Bush administration tell it, the JTTFs have been an unqualified success. The task forces have been credited with uncovering and busting up homegrown terrorist cells in Oregon, Seattle, Detroit, Miami, Buffalo and New Jersey. All told, the Feds have accused 619 people of "terrorist activity" since 9/11 —a record that the FBI insists has made America safer. In 2005 alone, more than 10 million terror inquiries were checked against the JTTF's Investigative Data Warehouse, a central repository for "terrorism-related documents." Such numbers create the sense that America is indeed under siege —and that the government is on top of the threat. "These extremists are self-recruited, self-trained and self-executing," FBI Director Robert Mueller declared in 2006. "These homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like Al Qaeda, if not more so."

But a closer inspection of the cases brought by JTTFs reveals that most of the prosecutions had one thing in common: The defendants posed little if any demonstrable threat to anyone or anything. According to a study by the Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law, only ten percent of the 619 "terrorist" cases brought by the federal government have resulted in convictions on "terrorism-related" charges —a category so broad as to be meaningless. In the past year, none of the convictions involved jihadist terror plots targeting America. "The government releases selective figures," says Karen Greenberg, director of the center. "They have never even defined 'terrorism.' They keep us in the dark over statistics."

Indeed, Shareef is only one of many cases where the JTTFs have employed dubious means to reach even more dubious ends. In Buffalo, the FBI spent eighteen months tracking the "Lackawanna Six" —a half-dozen men from the city's large Muslim population who had been recruited by an Al Qaeda operative in early 2001 to undergo training in Afghanistan. Only two lasted the six-week course; the rest pretended to be hurt or left early. Despite extensive surveillance, the FBI found no evidence that the men ever discussed, let alone planned, an attack —but that didn't stop federal agents from arresting the suspects with great fanfare and accusing them of operating an "Al Qaeda-trained terrorist cell on American soil." Fearing they would be designated as "enemy combatants" and disappeared into the legal void created by the Patriot Act, all six pleaded guilty to aiding Al Qaeda and were sentenced to at least seven years in prison.

In other cases, the use of informants has led the government to flirt with outright entrapment. In Brooklyn, a Guyanese immigrant and former cargo handler named Russell Defreitas was arrested last spring for plotting to blow up fuel tanks at JFK International Airport. In fact, before he encountered the might of the JTTF, Defreitas was a vagrant who sold incense on the streets of Queens and spent his spare time checking pay phones for quarters. He had no hope of instigating a terrorist plot of the magnitude of the alleged attack on JFK —until he received the help of a federal informant known only as "Source," a convicted drug dealer who was cooperating with federal agents to get his sentence reduced. Backed by the JTTF, Defreitas suddenly obtained the means to travel to the Caribbean, conduct Google Earth searches of JFK's grounds and build a complex, multifaceted, international terror conspiracy —albeit one that was impossible to actually pull off. After Defreitas was arrested, U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf called it "one of the most chilling plots imaginable."

Using informants to gin up terrorist conspiracies is a radical departure from the way the FBI has traditionally used cooperating sources against organized crime or drug dealers, where a pattern of crime is well established before the investigation begins. Now, in new-age terror cases, the JTTFs simply want to establish that suspects are predisposed to be terrorists —even if they are completely unable or ill-equipped to act on that predisposition. High-tech video and audio evidence, coupled with anti-terror hysteria, has made it effectively impossible for suspects to use the legal defense of entrapment. The result in many cases has been guilty pleas —and no scrutiny of government conduct.

In most cases, because no trial is ever held, few details emerge beyond the spare and slanted descriptions in the indictments. When facts do come to light during a trial, they cast doubt on the seriousness of the underlying case. The "Albany Pizza" case provides a stark example. Known as a "sting case," the investigation began in June 2003 when U.S. soldiers raided an "enemy camp" in Iraq and seized a notebook containing the name of an imam in Albany — one Yassin Aref. To snare Aref, the JTTF dispatched a Pakistani immigrant named Shahed "Malik" Hussain, who was facing years in prison for a driver's-license scam. Instead of approaching Aref directly, federal agents sent Malik to befriend Mohammed Hossain, a Bangladeshi immigrant who went to the same mosque as Aref. Hossain, an American citizen who ran a place called Little Italy Pizzeria in Albany, had no connections whatsoever to terrorism or any form of radical Islam. After the attacks on 9/11, he had been quoted in the local paper saying, "I am proud to be an American." But enticed by Malik, Hossain soon found himself caught up in a government-concocted terror plot. Posing as an arms dealer, Malik told Hossain that a surface-to-air missile was needed for an attack on a Pakistani diplomat in New York. He offered Hossain $5,000 in cash to help him launder $50,000 —a deal Hossain claims he never properly grasped. According to Muslim tradition, a witness is needed for significant financial transactions. Thus, the JTTF reached out for Hossain's imam and the true target of the sting —Aref.

At trial, the judge brushed aside questions about why the government was after Aref in the first place. "The FBI had certain suspicions, good and valid suspicions, for looking into Mr. Aref," he told the jury. "But why they did that is not to be any concern of yours." For their role in a conspiracy confected entirely by the FBI, both Aref and Hossain were convicted of attempting to provide material support to terrorists and sentenced to fifteen years in federal prison.

"I am just a pizza man," the bewildered Hossain said at his sentencing. "I make good pizza."

Despite the rapid and widespread proliferation of JTTFs, very little has been reported about what goes on inside the War on Terror's domestic front. The FBI building that houses the JTTF for the Northern District of Illinois has been moved from the middle of the city to a more spacious, fortresslike building on the industrial west side of Chicago, a place out of the city's Loop, literally and figuratively. The glass tower is surrounded by a tall metal fence, and layers upon layers of security inside and out add to the sense of siege. When Special Agent Robert Holley, who supervises the JTTF's Squad Counterterrorism 1, offers to escort me to his office on the eighth floor, we are stopped by his superior before we even reach the hallway. The entire floor, the supervisor declares, is considered secure — there are classified documents on desks —and therefore off-limits to outsiders.

Holley, an ex-military type who is built like a bullet, rolls his eyes but complies. There is no problem finding another room for a meeting. There are acres of empty offices and cubicles in the eerily futuristic building, the premises far larger than current requirements dictate but ready for expansion should the need arise with another terrorist attack.

Counterterrorism squads like the one overseen by Holley are assigned to monitor distant "Areas of Responsibility" —the Horn of Africa, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq. The six CT squads in Chicago are also divided into two categories: Five "substantive" groups like Holley's, which gather intelligence and conduct long-term investigations of specific individuals, and another squad that is charged with chasing down leads and determining the "threat profile" of suspects to decide if an investigation is merited. Holley's squad currently has some seventy-five open investigations — he won't give the precise number —in nearly every country under his purview. "A lot of our successes you don't see," he says. "We don't measure our success by the number of prosecutions."

When I ask what kinds of cases his CT squad has made, Holley cites the example of a local cab driver who came up on the JTTF's radar some time back —he won't say how or why. The man was East African, Holley says, a suspected Islamic extremist "connected to known bad guys overseas." After being interviewed by the JTTF, the cabbie decided to leave the country. Nothing criminal had occurred, and no charges were laid. The cab driver had simply come to the attention of the JTTF, and that in itself was enough to dispose of the matter.

"Can we consider that a success because we didn't put him in jail?" Holley asks. "Absolutely. This guy is no longer here. He is not a threat to one person in the United States."

"Was he ever a threat?" I ask.

"We opened up an investigation."

"But isn't that a circular argument?"

"Was he a bomb-thrower?" Holley concedes. "Probably not. Did he want to go into a mall and attack? No."

The next morning, I meet with three members of the Field Intelligence Group. The FIGs are designed to create a centralized approach to intelligence, both domestic and foreign. In northern Illinois, the group analyzes information from around the world, as well as that supplied courtesy of Operation Virtual Shield, the surveillance initiative designed to make Chicago one of the most-watched cities in the world. Thousands of cameras deployed on street corners, train platforms and buses now provide a nearly comprehensive visual record of all public movement in Chicago.

The unexceptional-seeming trio from the FIG dodge most of my questions on the grounds of national security. Mike Delejewski, a soft-spoken intelligence analyst, says that every call that comes into the JTTF is passed along to the FIG, which runs down every lead, no matter how improbable. Delejewski mentions a call received regarding the Sears Tower and three suspicious-looking men seen in the vicinity. That was all the report said. The FIG and CT squads responded. The men turned out to be Mexican tourists.

"We get a lot of those calls," Delejewski says with a laugh.

Many of the callers who contact the JTTF are intentionally misleading, hoping to take revenge against a boyfriend, neighbor or co-worker. Such hoaxes are so routine, in fact, that the JTTF's public-relations officer keeps a separate file stuffed with press reports of invented pipe bombs and unattended suitcases and lunch trucks packed with explosives.

None of the three analysts in the FIG have Arabic-language skills or extensive experience in the countries they are supposed to monitor. To keep informed, they read newspapers and intelligence reports. They then issue bulletins to police departments about perceived threats.

"What is the biggest threat?" I ask.

There is a long pause.

"I think it's very dangerous if we start to identify that," an analyst named Julie Irvine says.

"The enemy is listening," Assistant Special Agent in Charge Gregory Fowler adds later. "I drill that into my people's heads every day. Foreign-intelligence agencies and terrorists are listening. The FBI is on a war footing."

When I express skepticism at the nature of the cases being brought by the JTTF, and the wild-goose chases that seem to occupy its time, Fowler says people don't understand the "threat stream" facing the nation. There are two reasons, he insists, that cases brought by the JTTF end up being discounted. First, defense attorneys manipulate the public to create the impression that the accused are hapless —but since very few cases actually go to trial, this explanation is unlikely at best. Second, Fowler says, the FBI itself minimizes threats to prevent panic. As an example, he cites the case of "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, who pleaded guilty to terror-related charges. Reid, Fowler insists, was a much greater danger to America than is commonly appreciated —a refrain that requires the word of the JTTF be taken on faith.

"The public is never going to see the evidence we have," Fowler says. "We don't want to reveal our hand or tip our sources. You cannot judge the nature of the terrorist threat to the United States based on the public record."

"But with such strictures," I ask, "how does a citizen become informed about the threat?"

"I have access to the information," Fowler says. "I have a lot of faith in the judgment of the common citizen. A lot of people understand the nature of the threat."

To get a perspective on how the War on Terror is being waged by cops on the street, I meet with two local police officers assigned to the JTTF. Sgt. Paul DeRosa of the Chicago Police Department and Master Sgt. Carl Gutierrez of the Illinois State Police act as liaison officers for their respective forces. Both are on call 24/7 for 365 days of the year. Both are regularly summoned at three in the morning to investigate potential terrorist activity in Chicago.

"This weekend I had two calls," Gutierrez says.

When I ask what the calls were about, all Gutierrez will say is that they involved "suspicious incidents" which "could possibly have a terrorist nexus." An example: People traveling on a train see someone taking photographs and acting suspiciously, and phone the police. "You have to understand we take those sort of calls very seriously," Gutierrez says. "We have to. If we don't, and something happens, and it comes back to us and lives are lost, who's to blame?"

To illustrate the kinds of cases the JTTF generates, Sgt. DeRosa cites an incident from three years ago. Two Middle Eastern men boarded a bus on Lake Shore Drive. They were bearded, dressed in traditional Arabic garb and sitting next to each other. As they rode the bus, one man was clicking a counter — the kind used at nightclubs to keep track of the crowd size. A passenger on the bus called 911.

"A report was made, and our CT squad was notified," DeRosa says. "We went and got the film from that bus. We reviewed it. We could see them clicking. We ask ourselves, 'Are they clicking passengers? Are they clicking when they go past buildings? Are they clicking on how many cars?' We put out a 'Bolo' —Be on the Lookout. We found where they got on the bus, and we did a stakeout. Seven or eight cars set up on the bus stop. On the third day, we spotted the guy. We talked to him." No one was arrested. There was no crime alleged. But DeRosa says proudly that the JTTF succeeded in finding the Man With the Clicker.

"Why was the man clicking?" I ask.

"They had to say a Muslim prayer 50,000 times," DeRosa says. "At first, we thought that was nonsense. Since then we've had a few of these incidents. Are these guys terrorists? Probably not. But in three days, they were identified and interviewed by the power of the JTTF — city and state police, FBI, Secret Service. Does that send a message to their community?"

Chicago has one of the largest Muslim populations in the country —some 400,000, DeRosa estimates. "Experts say that between five and ten percent of Muslims are extremists. So you take it down to one percent. What's one percent of 400,000? Forty thousand? Technically there could be 40,000 —"

"You mean 4,000," I say.

DeRosa pauses. "Right," he says. "Four thousand." He forges on. "Most people who come to America who are Middle Eastern come for a good reason. But there's still a percentage that may be here that don't like us. They are with the extremists."

Gutierrez offers another instance of the JTTF at work. A man of apparent Middle Eastern background came into a Chicago police station and said he worked for the Department of Defense and he had top-secret documents in his truck, which had been stolen. He also said his roommate was a terrorist. The man appeared to be a kook. But an allegation had been made. The JTTF was contacted. Gutierrez was called out, and he interviewed the subject. He soon verified that the man was, in fact, nuts. But the matter didn't end there.

"We interviewed the roommate," Gutierrez says. "He was an Egyptian. We ran his name. He was here illegally. ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] was there within two hours. I've never seen ICE react the way they did. They came out and took physical custody of the guy. They kept him until his court hearing, and he was sent overseas."

"Was there any evidence or suggestion that the man was actually a terrorist?" I ask.

"You never know," DeRosa says.

"Have you ever found a terrorist cell?" I ask.

"That's kind of a vague question," Gutierrez says. "There are certain things we can't talk about, because it leads to more."

"Do I believe there's a cell in Chicago?" DeRosa asks. "I bet you there is. Do I have any direct physical knowledge? No. But I think there is one, and that's why we're here."

The two officers tell me about a close call at the Taste of Chicago food festival last year. Millions attend the annual street feast, with Chicago-style sausage and pizza and tamales on sale in booths along the lakefront. As with all major public events, the JTTF helped plan the security profile. A JHAT —a Joint Hazardous Assessment Team —set up at the festival, dotting the area with devices that detect signs of a chemical or biological or radiological attack. Suddenly, one of the devices went off: There was a radiological hit on one of the sniffers near a row of porta-potties. For an hour, the JHAT frantically tried to determine if Chicago had been struck by a "dirty bomb" —a weapon that spreads lethal radioactive material mixed with conventional explosives. Finally, after an anxious hour, the hit was traced to a particular outhouse —and the cause of the positive alert was determined.

"Someone who had chemotherapy had just done a poop," DeRosa says.

There is considerable skepticism in local police departments in northern Illinois about the nature and extent of the threat posed by terrorism. There are 415 local law-enforcement agencies in the district, many of which remain unconvinced that the threat is as dire as the JTTF maintains. Many departments refuse to allocate even one or two officers to spend four hours on basic terror training. Rather than consider the idea that the cops closest to the ground might have a better perspective on their communities, the JTTF addressed the problem by forming a TLOC —Terrorism Liaison Officer's Committee. The point is to merchandise the menace of terrorism to the police.

"It's a matter of marketing strategy," says Mark Lundgren, a special agent who oversees the TLOC. "These terrorism acts are trending toward the homegrown, self-activated, self-radicalized — the sort of thing that could literally pop up in your back yard. The typical things we would use to detect terrorism don't work, because these people are off the charts, so to speak. Nine times out of ten, for the next decade, it's going to be the local cop who stops the terror attacks."

Lundgren, who resembles a young Gary Busey, fairly glistens with certainty about the value of his work. "What are you trying to sell to the local police departments?" I ask.

"Awareness. Motivation," he says. "It's a very hard sell. You walk into a chief of police in a crime-ridden district. The first thing he's going to tell you is, 'The guys in this area are killing people. The guys you're telling me about —it's not make-believe, I understand that — but they haven't killed anyone lately in my district.' "

"Or ever," I say.


When Derrick Shareef was arrested by the JTTF, the police chief in Rockford complained that his force had been told very little about the investigation. The city has one of the highest murder rates in the state, as well as raging drug and juvenile delinquency woes. Dominic Iasparro is a senior investigator who is working the case of an addict found dead on the outskirts of town. He tells me he has no real leads. There is a small FBI outpost in Rockford, with ten or so agents, but it provides no assistance on a homicide. Local police have scant interaction with the JTTF, and Iasparro doesn't exactly see terrorism as a top priority in northern Illinois. "We're not a big enough target," he says.

A thirty-five-year veteran, Iasparro follows JTTF bulletins and updates online, and he doesn't doubt the good intentions of the agents involved in the task force. But he also understands that the pressure on the federal government to avoid another attack is enormous. To a local cop like Iasparro, the amount of resources the government devotes to the effort is staggering.

"Do you think the JTTF is jumping at ghosts?" I ask.

He shakes his head in wonder. "I have never seen anything like it in my career."

The attitude of local cops frustrates members of the TLOC. They want to train cops to watch out for "suspicious terroristlike behavior," without revealing what such behavior might look like. "We're teaching police how to approach a suspicious person in a public place," Lundgren tells me. "How to probe that person. How to look at the body language they exhibit, how they answer questions, to determine if they are a threat or not — in a way that doesn't leave that person feeling they've been ill-treated. There are detractors out there that think our cases are without merit. That's a philosophical question that's easy to ask until you're a body part.

"Without getting too philosophical, remember the whole Dick Cheney one percent solution," Lundgren continues. "If there is a one percent chance that a device can be constructed that will kill thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of people, then we have to treat our response as if there were a 100 percent chance. That's a thing that gets lost in the view of the public when they see the intelligence-gathering of law enforcement. They get concerned about their civil liberties and the Constitution because of the way things are portrayed in the media."

In late November, Derrick Shareef pleaded guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Because of the video evidence against him, Shareef couldn't use a legal defense of entrapment. But in court, he said he had been "coerced into doing things and trapped into doing things." In Rockford, not long before his guilty plea, there was a "For Sale" sign on the small house where Shareef once lived. The house was empty, the furniture gone. Members of the JTTF told me that they wished they could reveal the rest of the story, to prove that Shareef was a true bad guy. According to the indictment of another accused terrorist, Hassan Abu-Jihaad, Shareef was involved in a larger conspiracy to attack a military base in San Diego. In pretrial proceedings, however, it emerged that Abu-Jihaad was egged on by none other than William "Jameel" Chrisman, the same informant who set up Shareef. Abu-Jihaad not only refused to participate in the alleged plot but on surveillance tapes can be heard dismissing Shareef as an idiot and a liar. "I ain't no jihadi," Abu-Jihaad told Jameel.

While real threats undoubtedly exist, what the Bush administration promotes as a nationwide pattern of terrorist activities is largely the result of its own policies in the age of lawfare. Last May, the FBI arrested the "Fort Dix Six," charging the men with conspiring to attack the New Jersey military base. The supposed terror cell was discovered when a clerk at Circuit City was asked to transfer to DVD a video of the men allegedly training for jihad in the Pocono Mountains and shouting, "Allahu Akbar!" [God is great!] As in other cases, the FBI itself proved to be the mastermind behind the plot. The men —who included three roofers, a taxi driver and a former delivery boy for Super Mario's Pizza — had little money and no connections to real extremists. All were in their twenties and spent their weekends playing paintball. Under the guidance of two informants for the JTTF, the men planned an assault on Fort Dix using rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s —none of which actually existed.

There are signs, however, that judges and jurors are getting fed up with such concocted "threats." In December, the prosecution of the "Liberty City Seven" ended in one acquittal and a hung jury for the rest of the accused. The supposed cell was accused of preparing a "full ground war" against America by bringing down the Sears Tower and other buildings. At trial, however, it emerged that the men had no operational abilities, that the plots were dreamed up at the exhortation of two paid FBI informants while smoking dope and that the group had been provided its camera, military boots and warehouse by the JTTF.

Despite 15,000 surveillance recordings of the men, including one in which they swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden, the jury refused to convict. "This was all written, produced, directed, choreographed and stage-designed by the United States government," Albert Levin, an attorney for one of the accused, said in his closing argument.

Undeterred, the government is taking six of the men back to court. The retrial was scheduled to begin on January 22nd.

Guardian : The mysterious disappearance of an alleged terror mastermind

Monday, January 28, 2008

The mysterious disappearance of an alleged terror mastermind

Rashid Rauf's escape from police at a mosque seemed audacious. But his lawyer believes he is still in custody.

Ian Cobain in Rawalpindi | January 28, 2008

On the morning of Thursday August 10 2006, Britain awoke to the news that the security services and police were alleged to have foiled a terror attack that was to have been unprecedented in magnitude and mercilessness, according to senior Scotland Yard officers.

Using smuggled liquid explosives and detonators made from camera flashlights, Islamist terrorists were said to have been plotting to bring down 10 airliners in mid-Atlantic. Three thousand people or more were to have died.

A few hours earlier, New Yorkers watching late-night television news had been told official sources had identified the alleged mastermind as a British citizen called Rashid Rauf. A few hours later, Pakistani authorities were reporting that he had already been captured.

Little was known about Rauf at that time, other than that he was from Birmingham, and that he had flown to Pakistan four years earlier, one step ahead of detectives who were eager to question him about the murder of his uncle. Eighteen months on, the alleged terrorist mastermind remains something of an enigma, even though he is at the centre of another curious episode in the campaign against international jihadist terror - one far more difficult to fathom than the alleged airline bomb plot.

Shortly before Christmas, Rauf is said to have escaped from Pakistani custody when two policemen escorting him from court in the capital, Islamabad, to a jail outside the nearby city of Rawalpindi stopped to allow him to pray in a roadside mosque. The officers claimed that when Rauf walked into the mosque they waited outside in their car, never considering for a moment that he could simply walk out of the back door.

Both policemen are now themselves in custody, and the official Pakistani government explanation is that they were bribed. It is an explanation that appears to satisfy western officials in Islamabad. "The policemen must have been paid off, they didn't report it for several hours," says one. "The Pakistani government is seriously embarrassed by this." Others are not so sure, however, and suspect that Rauf may still be in custody, this time at one of the secret detention centres that the formidable Pakistani security agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), is known to operate at anonymous suburban villas. "It wasn't an escape from custody," says his lawyer, Hashmat Ali Habib. "You could call it a 'mysterious disappearance' if you like, but not an escape. The Pakistanis are simply not interested in handing him over to the British. They never have been, although it is not clear why not."

What is clear is that in a country where ties of family and faith can mean more than duty or the letter of the law, where intelligence agencies stand accused of operating like terrorists and where terrorist gangs are the creation of those same agencies, nothing can be taken for granted in the strange disappearance of Rashid Rauf.

Vanishing act

The son of a successful businessman from the Ward End area of Birmingham, east of the city centre, Rauf, 27, had already pulled off one vanishing act, in April 2002, after his uncle, Mohammed Saeed, was stabbed repeatedly in the stomach as he walked home from work. Saeed, 54, managed to stagger the few yards to his front door, where he collapsed in front of his wife and children. The motive for his killing has never been made public, but if West Midlands police ever get their hands on Rauf, they say he will face a charge of murder.

Once in Pakistan, the young Brummie headed for Bahawalpur, a small town 450 miles south of Islamabad where he knew a local imam, a man who had stayed at his family home while preaching in the UK. Despite speaking very little Urdu, Rauf was soon engaged to marry the imam's daughter. It was a union that brought him close to an organisation once described as the deadliest terrorist group on the sub-continent.

Rauf's wife is closely related by marriage to Maulana Masood Azhar, the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed, or Army of Mohammed, a group that enjoyed close links with the ISI during the 1990s, when it was helping the Pakistani government wage a proxy war against India over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Outlawed in the wake of the September 11 attacks, at the insistence of the United States, Jaish-e-Mohammed has been alleged to have been implicated in the murder of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl, and is accused of orchestrating a string of suicide bombing attacks in Pakistan. Despite this, it operates almost openly across Pakistan under a number of different names, and undoubtedly still has contacts within the ISI and the Pakistani police.

Rauf was picked up in Bahawalpur in early August 2006, almost a week before any airliner terrorism suspects were detained in the UK. The Americans had been urging the British and Pakistani authorities to move quickly, and when they threatened to detain Rauf themselves, and hurl him into their so-called extraordinary rendition programme, the ISI arrested him.

After being held incommunicado by the ISI, Rauf was brought before court accused of terrorism offences, and remanded to Adiala prison, where violence and extortion is rife and where a parliamentary human rights commission concluded after a visit in May 2006 that "most prisoners showed signs of physical abuse". Rauf subsequently told his lawyer that he had been mistreated, and that he had been interrogated by westerners as well as Pakistani officials.

In December 2006, a judge threw out the terrorism charges, but Rauf remained in custody for a further year, accused of possessing explosives and carrying forged identity papers. Then, last November, a lower court ordered his release after those charges were withdrawn. Within 30 minutes, the government announced that he was to be extradited to the UK, and the following day he was detained for a further 90 days. To complicate matters, the Pakistani government had been insisting for several months that Rauf would be handed over only if the British extradited two Pakistani men living in London. The pair - separatists from the south-western province of Balochistan - are accused by Islamabad of terrorism, which they firmly deny. While the British government insisted there could be no such swap, the two men were arrested by Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command within three weeks of extradition proceedings beginning against Rauf, and are fighting to remain in the UK.

Extradition process

Under the terms of the extradition process, Rauf was to be brought regularly before a court in Islamabad, 18 miles from Adiala prison. On December 14, Habib says, he heard shortly after lunch that his client had unlocked his handcuffs and escaped while being taken to court.

That evening, however, Islamabad police said that two policemen escorting him from court had taken him to a McDonald's drive-in in Rawalpindi later that afternoon before allowing him to pray alone at a mosque, still handcuffed. And then, according to the official account, the alleged British terrorist mastermind simply melted away.

McDonald's, in the neighbourhood known as Civil Lines, is a place where teenagers hum to music echoing from the speakers while security guards carefully search their cars for bombs. The manager is clearly tired of answering questions about Rashid Rauf. "I can tell you what I have told the police," he says. "Nobody noticed them. But we have lots of policemen coming here, and lots of people who look like Rauf."

A few miles away on Adiala Road, leading from the city to the prison, there was a similar story at Rukhshanda mosque. "We don't remember seeing Rauf that day, and the police didn't come in looking for him," says the caretaker. "We only know he's supposed to have escaped from here because the police have been back every day since, asking questions."

At the back of the mosque is a small yard bounded by a head-high wall. Behind the wall is an alley, at the end of which lie open fields. And somewhere beyond those, according to the official account, perhaps hiding with members of Jaish-e-Mohammed, is the young man from Birmingham who plotted to bring down 10 transatlantic airliners.

It is an account that makes Rauf's lawyer smile. "Look, many people, thousands of people, disappear in Pakistan," says Habib. "The government knows what it means, and the people know what it means."

Like most Pakistanis, Habib is afraid of the ISI, and is reluctant to name the agency. "You can infer what you like," is all he will say.

Human rights organisations are not so apprehensive. Amnesty International said in a recent report that in the Pakistani government's enthusiasm for the so-called war on terror, "many people have been detained incommunicado in undisclosed places of detention and tortured or ill-treated ... some have been charged with criminal offences unrelated to terrorism, others have been released without charge, reportedly after being warned to keep quiet about their experience, while some have been found dead".

Habib does not believe that Rauf has disappeared for ever. "Sometimes in Pakistan, people come home after two or three years saying they were just taken out of prison and left at the side of a main road," he says. "Or sometimes people are brought to the surface by the authorities, for some reason or other."

There is a third possibility: "Perhaps it will be announced that Rashid was caught in crossfire during a police operation. Then his family will be given his body."

Birmingham to Bahawalpur

· Rashid Rauf fled the UK in 2002 after his uncle, Mohammed Saeed, was stabbed repeatedly in the stomach as he walked home from work. West Midlands police say Rauf will face a charge of murder if he returns.

· Rauf ended up in Bahawalpur, a small town 450 miles south of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. An imam there had once stayed at Rauf's family home in Birmingham. Rauf was soon engaged to the imam's daughter. Rauf's wife is closely related by marriage to Maulana Masood Azhar, founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed, or Army of Muhammad, a group outlawed in the wake of the September 11 attacks at the insistence of the United States. Jaish-e-Mohammed has been alleged to have been implicated in the murder of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal correspondent, and is accused of orchestrating a string of suicide bombing attacks in Pakistan.

· Rauf was picked up in Bahawalpur in early August 2006 as part of the investigation into an alleged plot to bring down 10 airliners flying from Britain to the United States. In court he was accused of terrorism offences and remanded to Adiala prison, near Rawalpindi.

· In December 2006 a judge threw out the terrorism charges, but he remained in custody for a further year, accused of possessing explosives and carrying forged identity papers. Last November a lower court ordered his release but the government immediately announced that he was to be extradited to the UK and he was detained for a further 90 days. Rauf is said to have escaped on December 14 while being returned to prison after an extradition hearing in Islamabad. : Will Pakistani Journalists Ever Learn, National Interest?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Will Pakistani Journalists Ever Learn, National Interest?

By: | January 28, 2008

In a room full of international audience where international journalists where trying to undermine Pakistan’s interest and its capacities (being misinformed?), A Pakistani Journalist asked the most illogical and in efficient question he could ask bearing the responsibility of being the only Pakistani Journalist present on the occasion.

He connected the run away of Rashid Rauf a militant suspect of British Nationality from Rawalpindi police, with Pakistan Army and Intelligence agencies. In Ziaudin’s own (Listen here) words this question was already answered by President in Pakistan.

In some opinions, The President made him an example so that when ever any body asks what is National interest, he could refer to.

Ziaudin claims in an interview to BBCurdu that he has asked more tougher and difficult questions from President and President has never replied in such way and this answer was not anticipated at all. While giving this interview he claims that connecting Rawalpindi police with Pakistan Army and Intelligence and safe guard of Pakistan ’s nuclear assets is logical. Failing again to recognize what a 40 years experienced Pakistani journalists is suppose to do when foreign media is trying to undermine Pakistani Interest.

While understanding the intention of this gentleman expressed in the same interview to BBCurdu, it could be recommended that another question might have done the job, e.g. How Pakistani Police managed to Capture more than 684 (approx) international wanted terrorist. Out of these almost 16 are found connected with Benazir Bhutto assassination.

President on another occasion, in a lighter tone, talks about the journalist (Listen here).

Keeping National Interest First!

Pakistan Politics : Musharraf Insults Journalist

Monday, January 28, 2008

Musharraf Insults Journalist

January 27, 2008 | Filed Under Featured Articles, News

Musharraf lost temper and bashed Dawn UK correspondent Ziauddin on the question of escaping of Rashid Rauf from the hands of law enforcement agencies.

Later while addressing Pakistani community in Hilton, Musharraf further expressed his anger on the Journalist.

Audio Interview of Ziauddin

Audio of Musharraf’s Insulting Speech

Armed And Stupid : Musharraf Loses It

Monday, January 28, 2008

Musharraf Loses It

January 27, 2008

Listen to this audio from a Musharraf speech where he blasts Dawn News correspondent Ziauddin for questioning the official version of Rashid Rauf's escape from prison. He ends by asking the audience to confront such unpatriotic elements and "agar us ko do teen tika bhi dain to acha hai" (if you slap him around two or three times that would be good)

APP : Total co-operation exists between Pakistan and ISAF in Afghanistan: President Musharraf

Monday, January 28, 2008

Total co-operation exists between Pakistan and ISAF in Afghanistan: President Musharraf

January 26, 2008

LONDON, Jan 26 (APP): President Pervez Musharraf said on Friday that Pakistan and International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan have total co-operation with each other in fighting the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda elements but added no more US forces are required to achieve the success. Addressing the prestigeous British think tank - Royal United Services Institute - soon after his arrival in the British capital on the last leg of his four-nation European tour, he underscored the need for political dialogue as well and said military means alone cannot ensure a lasting victory.

Speaking on a ‘Vision for Pakistan and Regional Harmony’, the President ruled out allowing any foreign forces to operate from inside the borders of Pakistan and said Pakistani forces were fully capable of meeting any challenges. He said Pakistan would continue to support the Bonn process for bringing peace in Afghanistan.

He warned that fight against terrorism and extremism was unachievable without the support and co-operation of Pakistan and any instablity in the South Asian country was bound to be felt in the streets of Europe.

The President said measures, taken by Pakistan to strengthen its western borders, have been appreciated by the ISAF Commander. He said the NATO forces were doing a good job in Afghanistan but they must not ignore the political path.

He said Pakistan has established 1000 posts and done selective fencing along its borders with Afghanistan, adding the other effective step to wean away the Taliban elements, was through removing poverty and illiteracy.

The President traced the history of conflict in Afghanistan and underlined the important role played by Pakistan in forcing the Soviet Union to withdraw from the landlocked country in 1989.”

For 10 years, Pakistan was in the forefront of this conflict with the support of its American and Western allies that eventually ended the cold war,” he said while pointing out after that Pakistan and Afghanistan were left alone to fend for themselves.

He said this policy of US and its Western allies turned the people of Afghanistan against them and this gave rise to Taliban and to Al-Qaeda that eventually led to 9/11 events and fresh problems for the two neighbouring countries.

Referring to the suicide bombings in Pakistan, the President blamed Baitullah Mehsud for these heinous acts and said he had been luring poor and illiterate young men to carry out these attacks through indoctrination. He said Maulvi Fazullah was also doing the same before being driven out from Swat. South Waziristan remains the only troubled spot out of the all 7 FATA agencies, he added.

Referring to a question on the Pakistan nuclear assets, President Musharraf said there was no danger of these falling into wrong hands as there exists a strong command and control and custodian system under international practice.”There is a zero chance of our nuclear assets falling into Al-Qaeda hands,” he said.

Referring to a question on the escape of suspecterd terrorist Rashid Rauf from the custody of Police in Islamabad, he said there was no need to cast aspersion on the abilities of country’s law enforcing and intelligence agencies, adding the search was underway to arrest him and those responsible for this act would be taken to task.

The President also spoke of the growing friendly relations with India though, he said at the moment the peace process appears to have stalled.

With China, he said, Pakistan enjoys excellent relations and reminded the audience that his country had served as a bridge to facilitate relations between US and China way back in 1971. On Iran, he said Pakistan was against nuclear proliferation but said the nuclear power could be used for the purpose of generating energy.

He assured the audience that February 18 elections would be held in a fair, fair, peaceful and transparent manner and the Election Commission has taken all the measures to ensure its credibility. He added international observers have been allowed from Europe and US to monitor the democratic process.

He defended certain steps taken on November 3 last and said these were taken in the highest national interest and to put the democratic process on the track.

The President firmly asserted that those trying to destabilise the country would not be allowed to do so in any circumstances. He also spoke about the resurgence in Pakistan economy and the increase in the foreign direct investment.

Dawn : Foreign troops must not enter Pakistan, says Musharraf

Monday, January 28, 2008

Foreign troops must not enter Pakistan, says Musharraf

By Our Special Correspondent | January 26, 2008

LONDON, Jan 25: President Pervez Musharraf kicked off his three-day visit to the UK here on Friday with an hour-long talk on ‘Vision for Pakistan and Regional Harmony’ at a prestigious think tank as small groups of flag-waving and slogan-chanting people of Pakistani origin staged demonstrations against him outside and at the hotel where he and his entourage are staying.

The content of his talk at the think tank, the Royal United Strategic Institute (RUSI), was almost the same that he had delivered in other European capitals and Davos over the week.

He said the man in the street in Pakistan would see any attempt by foreign troops to enter Pakistan to fight the terrorists as an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty. He said Pakistan would be happy to receive training for their troops by the Americans and even their intelligence help but not their physical intervention.

Saying that the US troops in Afghanistan were already short of numbers and they were extended in Iraq as well, he thought they would not have enough men to send into Pakistan in the first place” as they needed more troops in Afghanistan itself.

The president recounted the ‘successes’ he had achieved on the economic front since he took over when Pakistan had almost defaulted but in another context he said that during the 1990s Pakistan was one of the most sanctioned countries in the world.

He blamed the upsurge in militancy in the region on the United States which, he said had ditched Pakistan and Afghanistan after the Soviet Union had been defeated in the late 1980s. Now, he said, it would be almost impossible for the world to ditch the region since the strategic attention had shifted from Europe to the Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran.

He claimed that Al Qaeda which was made up of mostly foreigners --Uzbeks, Chechens -- had already been defeated and now they were operating in groups of threes or twos as against large groups in the past.

He said the Taliban was an indigenous phenomenon and accused Baitullah Mehsud of leading it from South Waziristan. He claimed that the Taliban-operated suicide bombers were mostly young, illiterate and brainwashed people who thought they would go straight to heaven and their parents would also follow as a reward for their supreme sacrifice for the glory of Islam.

He claimed he had introduced the essence of democracy in the country and for the first time in Pakistan’s history all kinds of elections from local bodies to provincial, national, senate and presidential elections had been held in time and all the institutions had completed their constitutional tenures.

He promised that the next elections would be held in time and they would be free, fair, transparent and peaceful.

He reassured later during the Q&A session that the elections would be held on time. He also reassured the audience that Pakistan’s nuclear assets were under safe hands and their custodial control was fail-safe and that Pakistan did not need foreign help to safeguard them.

He was seemingly rattled when Dawn asked for his comments on suggestions that Pakistan’s ability to safeguard its nuclear assets and conduct a competent inquiry into Benazir Bhutto’s assassination came under suspicion when suspected terrorists like Rashid Rauf give the slip to Pakistani police and escaped.

He said: “It is people like you that cast such aspersions and then such aspersions get around and are picked up by the foreign media.”

He said he believed in human rights and freedom of the press, but implied that he would not permit people to attack police or the press to promote violence.

He repeated his charges against incarcerated Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and said he was trying to bring the executive to a standstill and create hurdles in the way of his elections.

Telegraph : President Pervez Musharraf's many faces

Monday, January 28, 2008

President Pervez Musharraf's many faces

by David Blair | Diplomatic Editor | January 25, 2008

Whatever you might think of President Pervez Musharraf, you have to admit he’s a good performer. Whenever I have seen him deliver a speech or stage a press conference, I have been struck by his self confidence and easy, jocular manner.

But very occasionally, the mask slips. I have just come from the Royal United Services Institute on Whitehall, where Musharraf was speaking earlier this afternoon. For almost the entire occasion, he was his usual charming self.

Then a Pakistani journalist, Mohammed Ziauddin, asked a perfectly reasonable question about how a prominent suspected terrorist, Rashid Rauf, had somehow escaped the custody of Musharraf’s security forces.

As soon as Ziauddin, the Islamabad editor of Dawn, a Pakistani daily, rose to ask his question, Musharraf visibly bristled.

Instantly, his demeanour changed from being relaxed and confident to tense and hostile.

Musharraf promptly accused Ziauddin of “casting aspersions” and “undermining our forces and your own country”. In a brief but furious tirade, he questioned Ziauddin’s patriotism and professionalism.

This disgraceful response to an entirely reasonable query spoke volumes about Musharraf. He will question the patriotism of any Pakistani critic – betraying his essential intolerance of dissent.

I wonder whether Musharraf would have responded with such rage had a British journalist asked precisely the same question?

I suspect he would have answered firmly but politely. Musharraf treats his fellow Pakistanis with contempt while oozing charm for the benefit of foreigners.

Daily Times : Barbarians at the gate

Monday, January 28, 2008

Barbarians at the gate

by Cyril Almeida | January 26, 2008

Other than the recently slain Bhutto, Musharraf is the only other figure who has consistently warned of the militant’s threat to the state of Pakistan. The problem is that he suffers from an utter lack of credibility in the eyes of the public. In politics, the messenger is often equally, if not more, important as the message

Who killed Benazir Bhutto? Sky’s the limit as far as theories go. But the most obvious one is also the least talked about: that Bhutto’s death was a major victory for militants in a creeping war against the state of Pakistan that gained real, frightening momentum in 2007.

Why the media and the public have largely focussed on the complicity of the status apparatus, or elements within it, in the killing of Bhutto is a triumph of the past over the present. Disillusionment with the state — the feeling of disenfranchisement and economic dismay — over many years has contributed to popular resentment against the shadowy ‘establishment’ and its security apparatus. It is easier to believe state complicity than suspect the militants’ hand.

The problem with this approach, however, is that it looks right past the greatest danger to the state of Pakistan since 1971. It is not difficult to imagine militants spread across the length of the country rubbing their hands in glee as they look on while the state once again goes to war against itself: attritional warfare in various parts of the country; political parties in disarray; the army on the back foot and a discredited political force; a public that wants change but does not know of what type; and the US as a renewed bugbear.

Few facts have been established of the circumstances of Bhutto’s death, but we do at least know the following: a man aimed a pistol at Bhutto; three shots were heard; and immediately after a blast took the life of the man with the pistol. Whether there was one attacker or two or more and what exactly caused the death of Bhutto, this much is in little doubt: the bomb near Bhutto’s vehicle was triggered by someone who believed he was acting in the name of religion.

The problem for the public is that a full, honest appraisal of those with motive to kill Bhutto is immediately enveloped in a cloud of fog. The shades of grey in which it is difficult to parse the state, its proxies and its enemies are not susceptible to easy analysis or glib sound-bites and headlines. Moreover, the people’s princess being killed at the behest of a cabal of insiders is too irresistible a story-line to pass up.

This is not to exonerate the establishment of all culpability. Indeed, few doubt the links between the state and the militants who are operating with increasing boldness across the country. The real issue is, however, subtler: has Frankenstein’s monster grown out of control or can it be reined in at will? The media and the public have passed judgement already: it is the latter.

But what if it is the former; if Lal Masjid, itself inextricably linked to the state, was a turning point last year? Have the militants since decided to press ahead in their bid to destabilise Pakistan? From within Pakistan it is easy to dismiss the Americans, the UN and ElBaradei who increasingly voice doomsday scenarios. But have they identified a subtle shift in a war that few Pakistanis are willing to acknowledge?

Spooks and establishment figures in Pakistan are quick to point out that neither the Taliban nor the tribes in FATA posed any threat to Pakistan until the US insisted the government purge them of the Islamic militants in their midst. The problem with this theory is that it is akin to nurturing a nest of snakes in your backyard and then being surprised when they slip in the house and bite your dog or child. Pakistan is now experiencing the quintessential blowback, and yet few care to acknowledge this fact.

This is dangerous. The media bears much responsibility: Maulana Fazlullah, Baitullah Mehsud, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Chechens, Rashid Rauf, the Lal Masjid brothers — all names bandied about with ease, but little context. Few care to explore the aims of these militants. Fazlullah’s band of militants were scattered with ease in the first wave of army operations and the media cheered rapturously. Was anyone surprised that the army had to mount a second phase of attacks a few weeks later? With few exceptions, try finding any hint in the media of protracted guerrilla warfare in the area after the first phase.

And then there is the demobbed general who occupies the presidency. Other than the recently slain Bhutto, Musharraf is the only other figure who has consistently warned of the militant’s threat to the state of Pakistan. The problem is that he suffers from an utter lack of credibility in the eyes of the public. In politics, the messenger is often equally, if not more, important as the message. So long as Musharraf remains the dominant political player in the country, his assessment of the militant threat will be tainted by his other sins.

The president has steadfastly maintained his ‘Pakistan first’ line; perhaps it is time he realises that the best thing he can do to save the country is to let someone else take the reins.

Cyril Almeida is a lawyer in Karachi. He can be reached at

Mother Jones : Don't Even Think About It

Monday, January 28, 2008

Don't Even Think About It

Commentary: The war against "homegrown terrorism" is on. Enter the thought police.

By James Ridgeway and Jean Casella | January 23, 2008

Perhaps no campaign tactic is more effective than fearmongering, and in the current presidential race the sum of all fears, once again, is radical Islamic terrorists—or "jihadists," to use the now-ubiquitous term. On the Republican side, it's a pissing match over who can look toughest against this shadowy enemy, with John McCain running ads showing masked Islamic gunmen, while Mitt Romney spouts the old neocon warning about forces that want to "unite the world under a single jihadist caliphate." Although the Democrats' rhetoric is more restrained, Hillary Clinton didn't hesitate to suggest that the new president might quickly face another terrorist attack on American soil, as part of her quest to convince voters they need her cool-headed experience.

Largely ignored by the mainstream candidates—as well as the mainstream media—are the latest efforts to bring the fear home by targeting "homegrown terrorism"—another new catchphrase. Only liberal Democrat Dennis Kucinich and libertarian Republican Ron Paul have warned that in the name of stopping domestic terrorist plots before they happen, Congress is in the midst of passing legislation aimed not at actual hate crimes or even terrorist conspiracies, but at talking, Web surfing, or even thinking about jihadism or other "extremist belief systems." Last October, a piece of legislation called the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 sailed through the House with near-universal bipartisan support; it is likely to reach the floor of the Senate early this year and appears certain to be signed into law.

Meanwhile, a report released by the New York City Police Department's intelligence division has been warmly received in Washington and widely distributed to law enforcement officials and seems sure to influence national policy. "Radicalization in the West and the Homegrown Threat" details how not only committed terrorists but potential jihadists think, what they talk about, and where they meet. The report's apparent goal is to increase surveillance on constitutionally protected activities. Already, members of the New York City Fire Department have been enlisted by Homeland Security to be on the lookout for signs of possible terrorist activity whenever they enter people's homes and to share this "intelligence" with other agencies.

Both the legislation and the report are presented as reasonable, rational responses to the threat of terrorism from domestic "extremist" groups and are framed not as plans for action but as efforts to "study" and "understand" the roots of homegrown terrorism. Both promote precisely the kind of broad approach—targeting beliefs rather than actions, assuming that "radicalization" leads to violence, defining terms loosely and casting a wide net—that has been used in the past by government authorities to monitor and disrupt legitimate dissent as well as illegal plots.

The primary sponsor of the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act is Jane Harman, chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Intelligence. Harman made a point of introducing the legislation on April 19, the 12th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, saying it was "aimed at ensuring such an attack never happens again." But it was clear from the start that the bill was not aimed at white supremacists or anti-government militias. In announcing the bill, Harman also cited a 2005 plot in her Southern California district, targeting "military bases and recruiting stations, the Israeli Consulate, synagogues filled with worshipers on Jewish holy days, and the El Al ticket counter at LAX"—a plot that was foiled when a local police detective spotted "jihadist extremist material" in the apartment of a robbery suspect.

The danger posed by American jihadists remains relatively small—both in comparison to domestic threats in Europe and to the threat of attacks on the United States from abroad. The latest National Intelligence Estimate on "The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland," released in July 2007, clearly stated that Al Qaeda "is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat" to the United States. In fact, the report found that "the group has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability" from its safe haven in Pakistan, and that the rise of Al Qaeda in Iraq has helped it raise resources and "recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks." Far down in its threat assessment, the NIE notes that "the radical and violent segment of the West's Muslim population is expanding, including in the United States," but also finds that "this internal Muslim terrorist threat is not likely to be as severe as it is in Europe."

Nonetheless, a few thwarted conspiracies are more than enough to float a bill like this. After a couple of hearings—described by OMB Watch as "primarily one-sided, with the bulk of the witnesses representing law enforcement or federal agencies"—the bill went to the House floor, where it was it passed with only six members voting against it—three Democrats and three Republicans. (Twenty-two others were absent.) Currently, a nearly identical version of the bill awaits a vote in the Senate's Committee on Homeland Security, where it has a supporter in chair Joseph Lieberman. Committee member Barack Obama has gone on record as being undecided on the bill (after an earlier email to constituents that seemed to indicate support)—but no presidential candidate is likely to cast a vote that could be seen as soft on terrorism.

The legislation would create a National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism composed of 10 members whose vaguely defined job would be to "examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence," and to "build upon and bring together the work of other entities" including various federal, state, and local agencies, academics, and foreign governments. The commission is charged with issuing a report after 18 months. It also directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to set up a center to study "violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism" at a U.S. university, and to "conduct a survey" of what other countries are doing to prevent homegrown terrorism.

On the surface it looks harmless enough, except perhaps as a source of potential pork. California's Dana Rohrabacher, one of three Republicans to oppose the bill, told Congressional Quarterly that he saw the creation of the commission as "the [worst] type of posturing. Is spending $20 million so people can talk more and pay for their hotel rooms and expenses really going to solve anything? I don't think so."

On the Democratic side, however, the legislation's three nay votes included Kucinich, who refers to it as the "thought-crimes bill." At campaign stops in New Hampshire, Kucinich cited the bill as yet another sign of government intervention in civil liberties. Earlier in his campaign, he said it "sets the stage for further criminalization of protest."

The bill raises the potential for government encroachments on civil rights in part through the way it defines some basic terms. The text of the bill says that "the term 'violent radicalization' means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change." It gives no clue as to what would qualify, under this law, as an "extremist belief system," leaving this open to broad interpretation according to the prevailing political winds.

In addition, simply by designating the "process of adopting or promoting" belief systems as a target for government concern or control, the bill moves into dangerous territory. The director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office, Caroline Fredrickson, said in a statement on the bill, "Law enforcement should focus on action, not thought. We need to worry about the people who are committing crimes rather than those who harbor beliefs that the government may consider to be extreme."

The United States already has ample federal and state laws against violence of all kinds, and against conspiracy to commit violence. Participants in the handful of "homegrown terrorist" plots that have hatched since 9/11 are being prosecuted under these existing statutes. Certain kinds of direct incitement to violence are already illegal, as well, but within strict limits.

Robert Peck of the Center for Constitutional Litigation points out that some of the most significant First Amendment battles have been fought over precisely when "speech transgresses the line from mere advocacy, which is protected by the First Amendment, to incitement, which is not." Through the early twentieth century, when "incitement" was defined broadly as speech that had a "tendency" to cause illegal acts, it was used to prosecute nonviolent abolitionists, anarchists, socialists, and draft resisters. Gradually, the Supreme Court narrowed the definition, so that speech is protected unless it will "intentionally produce a high likelihood of real imminent harm."

What the Homegrown Terrorism bill does is bring back into the equation not just violent actions, and not just violent plots, but the words and ideas that may (or may not) inspire or encourage them somewhere down the road. It moves toward designating people as terrorists based not on what they do, but on what they say and what they think.

Other red flags appear in the bill's initial "findings"—among them, the charge that "the Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens." "If Congress finds the Internet is dangerous, then the ACLU will have to worry about censorship and limitations on First Amendment activities," says the ACLU's Fredrickson. "Why go down that road?"

It's the "road" the bill lays out that worries civil libertarians. "This measure looks benign enough, but we should be concerned about where it will lead," Kamau Franklin of New York's Center for Constitutional Rights said when the bill passed the House. The National Commission it creates will have broad power to conduct investigations; one commentator dubbed it the "Son of HUAC"—the House Un-American Activities Committee—because it is supposed to travel around the country, holding hearings and questioning people under oath about their ideological beliefs. Wherever it may ultimately lead, the bill seems clearly part of a growing push toward expanding domestic intelligence operations—spying that is aimed not at any Al Qaeda members who may have slipped across the border, but at U.S. citizens and legal residents. The great civil libertarian Frank J. Donner, in his book The Age of Surveillance: The Aims and Methods of America's Political Intelligence System, argued that the true goal of domestic intelligence was not to prevent or punish criminal activity, but to protect existing power structures and suppress dissent. Unlike law enforcement, which deals with illegal actions that have already been committed, domestic intelligence is by nature "future-oriented": It is not looking for criminals, but potential criminals, and it does so by relying on "ideology, not behavior, theory not practice." Anyone who thinks the wrong way could at some point act the wrong way—so they have to be watched.

Donner was writing in the late 1970s, following congressional investigations that exposed the abuses of the FBI's COINTELPRO (Counterintelligence Program), which for more than a decade had conducted surveillance and planted informants to spy on and disrupt what J. Edgar Hoover had decided were "enemies of the American way of life"—including civil rights, anti-war, student, and women's liberation groups, as well as the John Birch Society and the Ku Klux Klan. During this period, the bureau tapped phones, opened mail, planted bugs, and burglarized homes and offices. At least 26,000 individuals were at one point catalogued on an FBI list of persons to be rounded up in the event of a "national emergency." In the end, the Bureau conducted more than half a million investigations of so-called subversives and maintained files on well over a million Americans—all of this without a single conviction for a criminal act.

Plenty of people will argue that the "subversive" groups targeted during the McCarthy era or the COINTELPRO period were nothing like today's Islamic radicals—and there are, of course, differences, not least in terms of new tactics like suicide attacks and dirty bombs. But the Weather Underground set off at least a dozen bombs, which is a dozen more than the homegrown jihadists have managed so far. And just as the FBI spied on Weathermen and anti-war activists alike, it will be unlikely to distinguish between active jihadists and Muslims who are simply ardent or angry. What's more, anything that can be applied to one "extremist" group—laws, policies, law enforcement strategies, domestic intelligence operations—can be applied to others. A case in point is offered by Brian Michael Jenkins, a Rand Corporation terrorism expert who served as a consultant on the NYPD's report. In his book on terrorism, Unconquerable Nation: Knowing Our Enemy, Strengthening Ourselves, Jenkins wrote, "In their international campaign, the jihadists will seek common grounds with leftist, anti-American, and anti-globalization forces, who will in turn see, in radical Islam, comrades against a mutual foe." Once a terrorist is defined by thought and word rather than deed, there will be room for all of us in the big tent.

The bill does include a provision that all activities "should not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents," and must observe "racial neutrality" policies. They are also to be audited by Homeland Security's Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Officer. But as Mike German of the ACLU told In These Times, an internal review does not constitute real independent oversight. "Nobody should be fooled that such an office would have authority to address policies that are approved at a high level of the administration."

Outside of civil liberties groups, most criticism of the bill seems to be coming from the libertarian right—including presidential candidate Ron Paul, who gave a shout-out to his diverse base of supporters when he warned that "otherwise non-violent anti-tax, antiwar, or anti-abortion groups [could] fall under the watchful eye of this new government commission."

For an indication as to where the initiatives outlined in the bill could lead, we can look to the NYPD report on the "homegrown threat" that was released in August 2007. Prepared by two senior analysts in the department's intelligence division, it compiles information from case studies of successful attacks and thwarted plots by domestic terrorists in the United States and other Western nations, and uses them to create what the authors call "a conceptual framework for understanding the process of radicalization in the West."

The NYPD report, like the House bill, starts out with a definition of terms. But unlike the bill, it is frank about which "extremist belief system" poses what it calls "the homegrown threat" (although it often avoids referring to Islam and instead uses the term "jihadi-Salafi ideology"): "What motivates young men and women, born or living in the West, to carry out 'autonomous jihad' via acts of terrorism against their host countries? The answer is ideology. Ideology is the bedrock and catalyst for radicalization. It defines the conflict, guides movements, identifies the issues, drives recruitment, and is the basis for action. In many cases, ideology also determines target selection and informs what will be done and how it will be carried out."

The lines between thought and action are blurred. And the report states explicitly that both are dangerous and need to be policed: "Where once we would have defined the initial indicator of the threat at the point where a terrorist or group of terrorists would actually plan an attack, we have now shifted our focus to a much earlier point—a point where we believe the potential terrorist or group of terrorists begin and progress through a process of radicalization. The culmination of this process is a terrorist attack."

Central to the report is an analysis of the four phases of this "radicalization process": pre-radicalization; self-identification with the jihadist cause; indoctrination following exposure to jihadist literature or arguments; and finally, "jihadization." None of these phases involves any violent acts, although the last, in the report's definition, will "ultimately" lead to "operational planning for the jihad or a terrorist attack." The way that one phase leads into another suggests a kind of seamless continuity between thought and action, a sense of inevitability—as if once an individual admits the ideology into his mind, he will eventually end up with a bomb strapped to his body.

The report acknowledges that individuals destined to follow this trajectory do not fit any particular profile. They can be citizens or resident aliens (legal or illegal); immigrants or second- and third-generation Americans; Muslim-born or converts. The "radicalization incubators" where they gather, the report says, "can be mosques," but also "cafes, cab driver hangouts, flophouses, prisons, student associations, nongovernmental organizations, hookah (water pipe) bars, butcher shops and book stores." Or they may meet on the Web, which the report calls "a virtual incubator of its own" and New York police commissioner called "the de facto training ground" for terrorists.

Future jihadists, the report says, "look, act, talk and walk like everyone around them," and "in the early stages of their radicalization, these individuals rarely travel, are not participating in any kind of militant activity, yet they are slowly building the mind-set, intention and commitment to conduct jihad." In other words, as Spencer Ackerman writes on TPMMuckraker, "most of what we learn about potential homegrown jihadists is that their pre-radical behavior is...a lot like that of non-jihadists." How, then, can we identify these people? Only by keeping an eye on everyone who might remotely fit the bill.

"The NYPD must have the tools it needs to investigate and combat terrorism, but this report lays the foundation for blanket surveillance of the entire Muslim community," said Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The NYPD report outlines no concrete strategies for combating "jihadization," but these would presumably involve the same kinds of tactics that have been used to track "dangerous" and "subversive" groups in the past, the basic tactics of domestic intelligence work: electronic surveillance, recruiting informants, placing agents—and sometimes agents provocateur—inside suspect communities, and taking up other opportunities to watch, look, and listen.

The report also seems to have inspired renewed calls for ordinary citizens to join in the task of rooting out potential jihadists by spying on their neighbors. "They can live next door," warned the New York Post, which also declared that the report "underscores the relentless efforts by civil libertarians and leftist groups—with the New York Times at the head of the line—to thwart counterterrorist efforts" by the NYPD.

Interestingly, the NYPD's "counterterrorist efforts" to which the Post refers had nothing to do with crushing jihadist plots; instead, they involve one of the most blatant crackdowns on legitimate dissent in recent memory, and show why the police force honed by Rudy Giuliani needs no more weapons against constitutional liberties added to its arsenal. Before and during the 2004 Republican National Convention, with no credible threat of violence, the NYPD conducted not only mass arrests of peaceful protesters (almost three times as many as Chicago 1968), but widespread preconvention surveillance of activists with "anti-Bush sentiment," from anti-war organizations to church groups to street-theater companies. "The police action helped to all but eliminate dissent from New York City during the Republican delegates' visit," said the New York Times editorial that aroused the Post's wrath. "If that was the goal, then mission accomplished. And civil rights denied."