L.A.'s thwarted terror spree - synagouges and military installations targetted in first homegrown Islamist terrorism plot
LA police chief : " We dodged a bullet here - perhaps many bullets"
L.A.'s Thwarted Terror Spree
by Daniel Pipes
[NY Sun headline: "L.A. Terrorists Threaten American Jewry"]
The Jewish High Holidays this year fall in early October, and that's when a massacre was planned against two Los Angeles synagogues, as well as other targets, according to an indictment just handed down against four young Muslim men.
Law enforcement traces the origins of this plot to 1997. That's when Kevin Lamar James, a black inmate at New Folsom Prison, near Sacramento, Calif., founded Jam'iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh (Arabic for "Assembly of Authentic Islam" and known as JIS). JIS promotes the sort of jihadi version of Islam typically found in American prisons. As the indictment puts it, James, now 29, preached that JIS members have the duty "to target for violent attack any enemies of Islam or ‘infidels,' including the United States government and Jewish and non-Jewish supporters of Israel."
James, serving a 10-year prison sentence for an armed robbery in 1996, recruited acolytes among fellow inmates. Volunteers swore to obey him and not to disclose the existence of JIS. On release from prison, they promised to get directives from him at least every three months, recruit Muslims to JIS, and attack government officials and supporters of Israel.
Levar Haney Washington, 25, allegedly joined the JIS and swore allegiance to James just before being released from New Folsom in November 2004, having served his six-year sentence for a 1999 assault and robbery. On getting out, Washington immediately began recruiting at his mosque, Jamat-E-Masijidul Islam in the Los Angeles area. "He regarded Osama bin Laden very highly," reported one person whom Washington tried to recruit.
Two men, both 21 years old and without criminal records, did sign up: a lawful Pakistani immigrant and student at Santa Monica College, Hammad Riaz Samana; and a black convert who had worked at a duty-free shop in Los Angeles International Airport, Gregory Vernon Patterson The three, plus James, now face up to life in prison for conspiring "to levy a war against the Government of the United States through terrorism."
They did so in five ways. They conducted surveillance of American government targets (military recruitment stations and bases), Israeli targets (consulate in L.A. and El-Al airlines), and Jewish targets (synagogues). The trio monitored the Jewish calendar and, the indictment notes, planned to attack synagogues on Jewish holidays "to maximize the number of casualties."
They acquired an arsenal of weapons. To fund this undertaking, they set off on a crime wave, robbing (or attempting to rob) gas stations 11 times in the five weeks after May 30. They engaged in physical and firearms training. Finally, they tried recruiting other Muslims.
But Patterson dropped a mobile telephone during the course of one gas station robbery, and the police retrieved it. Information from the phone set off an FBI-led investigation that involved more than 25 agencies and 500 investigators. The police staked out Patterson and Washington, arresting them after they robbed a Chevron station on July 5. Washington's apartment turned up bulletproof vests, knives, jihad literature, and the addresses of potential targets. Patterson was waiting to acquire an AR-15 assault rifle.
The JIS story prompts some worried observations.
Although Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales lavished praise on "the work of able investigators at all levels of government" in solving this case, law enforcement was as clueless about the JIS gang as was its British counterpart about the July 7 bombers. If not for the lucky break of a dropped phone, the jihadists probably would have struck. It is extremely disturbing to see law enforcement pat itself on the back for ineptitude.
American prisons are comparable to the banlieues in France, the principal recruiting grounds for a criminal form of Islam. As Frank Gaffney observes, "The alleged New Folsom State plot had better rouse us out of our stupor." Will it? Senate hearings in 2003 on prison jihadism yielded distressingly few results.
The emergence of a primarily African-American Islamist terrorist cell signals a new trend. Native-born Americans have taken part in terrorist operations before, but (again, as in London), this case this marks their first large-scale plot.
Terrorist plans that fail don't make headlines, but they should. This was a near-miss. Home-grown radical Islam has arrived and will do damage.
From www.danielpipes.org |
Islamic Leader, Three Others Indicted On Plotting Terror Attacks
Targets Include Southland Military Facilities, Synagogues, Israeli Consulate
August 24 2005
LOS ANGELES -- Federal authorities say four men, including the head of a prison-based Islamic extremist group, were indicted Wednesday for allegedly plotting terror attacks on Southland military facilities, synagogues and Israeli targets in the area.
The indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana against Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh founder Kevin James and three Southland men, Levar Washington, Gregory Patterson and Hammad Samana, alleges they conspired "to levy a war against the government of the United States through terrorism."
Prosecutors allege the attacks were to be financed through a string of armed robberies of gas stations. Money netted in the robberies was to be used to buy weapons, according to court papers.
Washington, who was paroled from state prison in Sacramento in November, allegedly acted at the urging of James, who is still serving a state sentence.
Washington allegedly recruited the two other men, and the defendants had been "on the verge of launching the attacks," which "had the potential to cause significant bloodshed," said U.S. Attorney Debra Yang.
James, 29, preached that members of his group, also known as JIS, had a duty to "target for violent attack any enemies of Islam or `infidels,"' including the U.S. government and supporters of Israel, the indictment states.
"We have a tendency to think of terrorism as something that's merely foreign to us, and this is really a stark reminder" that it can be homegrown, Yang told reporters.
According to authorities, Samana, who immigrated to the United States from Pakistan and is a legal permanent resident, is the only one of the four not born in America.
The six-count indictment also includes charges of conspiracy to kill members of the military, conspiracy to kill foreign officials, conspiracy to use a firearm in a crime of violence, interference with commerce by robbery and use of a shotgun during a gas station robbery in early July.
If convicted of all the charges, the defendants face life prison sentences.
Authorities say the investigation began slightly more than eight weeks ago when Torrance police received a tip concerning a string of gas station robberies in the Los Angeles and Orange counties that began May 30.
After tailing Washington, 25, and Patterson, 21, for two days, Torrance officers allegedly witnessed them commit a robbery at a gas station in Fullerton.
They then arrested the pair and searched a South Los Angeles apartment they shared. That search turned up materials that led police to believe the men might be plotting attacks, said Torrance police Chief James Herren.
Yang alleged that Patterson used the Internet to look up information about local military installations and upcoming Jewish holidays.
Samana, 21, allegedly wrote a document that listed potential targets.
Targets under surveillance by the alleged terror cell included U.S. military recruitment centers, military bases, the Israeli consulate, Israeli national airline El Al and synagogues in the Los Angeles area, according to the indictment.
During an afternoon news conference, Yang would not confirm whether National Guard facilities were among the military installations targeted, and she would not give specifics on which area synagogues -- or how many -- were on the alleged cell's list.
She did say that the El Al ticket counter at LAX was the sole target connected to the airline.
According to the indictment, the synagogue attacks were planned for the Jewish high holy days, which begin Oct. 3, "in order to maximize the number of casualties to be inflicted."
Authorities said they believed some targets would have been attacked soon if the arrests had not taken place.
"Make no mistake about it, we dodged a bullet here. Perhaps many bullets," Los Angeles police Chief William Bratton said.
The Los Angeles Police Department alone had 100 people working the case, including officers who were guarding potential targets, Bratton said.
According to Randy Parsons, acting assistant head of the Los Angeles office of the FBI, 25 different agencies were involved in the case. Those agencies collectively had 500-plus investigators and analysts working on the investigation over the past seven weeks. Parsons said authorities are not aware of any current threat based on what was learned during the investigation.
Washington and Patterson, who have been in custody at the Men's Central Jail since being arrested on state robbery charges, are expected to be transferred into federal custody. Samana is already in federal custody, officials said.
James is in state prison, serving a sentence for being a prisoner in possession of a weapon, and authorities will seek his transfer to federal custody.
James had originally been incarcerated for attempted robbery, and allegedly founded JIS while behind bars in 1997.
In November, James allegedly recruited Washington, who was serving a robbery sentence, to join JIS, according to the indictment. After Washington was paroled late that month, James told him to recruit five individuals without felony convictions and "train them in covert operations," prosecutors allege.
Washington allegedly recruited Samana and Patterson, fellow attendees of the Jamat-E-Masijidul Islam mosque in Inglewood. At some point, Washington allegedly "reaffirmed his allegiance ... by pledging his loyalty until death by martyrdom."
Yang called the plans the alleged cell is accused of hatching "a chilling plot based on one man's radical interpretation of Islam."
August 30, 2005: Authorities Say Indictments Will Be Delivered In Alleged Terror Plot
August 16, 2005: Possible Terror Plot Prompts Call For Better Tracking Of Inmates