A week after the bogus threat from Iraq,which disrupted daily life in NYC , shut down Penn Station and turned subway systems into several US cities into military checkpoint, a similiar threat shut down two major tunnels and a major interstate highway. The pyschological and economic effect is not lost on the terrorists and the possibility of false attack reports being as effective as a bomb in wreaking havoc with people's daily life is not lost on the terrorists and their supporters.
This newest incident of a false terrorist attack warnings and naming of potential perpetrators(some of whom were arrested for immigration violations), is a combination of personal vendetta and Pysops. According to the article the Egyptian who named people who were planning to bomb a Baltimore tunnel had been deported from the US and had been trying unsucessfully to get back in. He then named several people who he knew in Baltimore, out of anger that they had not helped him, and jealousy over a romantic involvement.
Digruntled Muslim community members named the officials of a a rival mosque in connection with immigration violations, and the reports launced the Lodi investigation which lead to the uncovering of an Al Qaeda terrorist enclave.
Several months ago an angry human smuggler decided to get revenge on some people by naming them as few months a Chinese terrorists, claiming he helped bring them in from Mexico. The newest terrorist threats, some of which could prove to be nothing more then a personal vendetta,also raises the question as to if this (or incidents like this) is a test of the emergency response system- or being used to wear down public and official alertness and preparedness to the point where a real threat will be ignored.
Law enforcement officials and members of the local Egyptian community are raising new questions about an informant who prompted Maryland officials to close two Baltimore harbor tunnels and a major interstate, fearing a suspected terrorist attack.
A day after the tunnel closures, the FBI has been unable to corroborate the account of the informant - an Egyptian who once lived in the Baltimore area and is now being held in the Netherlands on immigration violations.
No criminal charges have been filed in the alleged plot to blow up one of Baltimore's harbor tunnels, the FBI confirmed yesterday.
"I think there is doubt, because nothing happened and nothing else has been developed to corroborate the account," said a federal law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.
The informant's motives remain murky. But in interviews yesterday, associates of the four men detained in the case said they believe they know the identity of the informant and that he had lied because his friends failed to get him back into the United States.
His information, which included names of people living and working in Baltimore, helped persuade Maryland Transportation Authority Police to close Interstate 95 Tuesday at the Fort McHenry Tunnel and Interstate 895 at the Harbor Tunnel. Authorities tied up traffic for hours as they searched cars and trucks for explosives while FBI and immigration agents scoured the region for the men named by the informant.
The tipster alleged that at least six Egyptians living in the Baltimore area were plotting to drive a bomb-laden vehicle into one of the tunnels and detonate the explosives. The explosives were to have been smuggled into port aboard a ship, according to the informant. Agents searched a Southeast Baltimore market and at least three pizza restaurants and detained four Middle Eastern men on immigration violations.
Suied Mohamad-Ahamad, 25, and Mohamed Ahmed Mohamady Ismail, 30, both Egyptians, were taken into custody at Safa's Pizza on Merritt Avenue in Dundalk.
A third man, Ahmad al Momani, 58, from Jordan, was picked up at Koko Market, a Middle Eastern business in Highlandtown.
Mohamed Mohamed Abdel Hamed, 29, also Egyptian, was arrested in the 2900 block of Sollers Point Road in Dundalk.
The owner of the Koko Market was arrested on a gun charge, court records show. Maged M. Hussein, 41, was charged with violating a protective order by failing to surrender a revolver. The protective order had been obtained by his estranged wife last month in Baltimore County.
'A good man'
Kamal Zughbar, 63, who lives in a basement apartment on Rappolla Street in the Greektown neighborhood, described al Momani as a friend and fellow Jordanian immigrant whom he has known for about five years.
"He's a good man," Zughbar said. "That's what I know."
Abdel Hamed's and Mohamad-Ahamad's landlord said the men told her they are cousins when they rented the basement of her brick rowhouse on Sollers Point Road about eight months ago.
Eileen Katherine said she was shocked when FBI agents took Abdel Hamed away in handcuffs Tuesday.
"We had no idea," she said, referring to their alleged illegal immigration status.
Abdel Hamed was divorced from a woman in Egypt and had a 4-year-old daughter, Katherine said. She said both men sent money to their families in Egypt.
She said friends at Didi's Pizzeria Restaurant and Carryout, where she said the men worked, came to get their belongings from the apartment yesterday.
Ahmed Barbour, manager of Didi's Pizzeria in Dundalk, said he believes the informant is a man who used to work for him at the restaurant. He said the man, about 25 or 26 years old, came to the United States with a group of fellow Egyptians several years ago and was deported last year on immigration violations.
Federal sources interviewed for this article said they could not confirm that. But one law enforcement source did say that the informant was an Egyptian and had lived in Baltimore in recent years. The source said the informant had a "questionable" performance on a polygraph.
Since being deported, the man has tried furiously to get back into the United States, said Barbour, sitting behind a cluttered desk in a smoky office in the back of his pizzeria, a carry-out located behind a 7-Eleven on Holaview Road in Dundalk.
"He tried calling people here" to have money sent to him, Barbour said. The people he was calling were the same ones he came to this country with, Barbour said. "He gets very sad."
Carol Barbour, an employee at Didi's, confirmed her husband's account, saying the informant had "ulterior motives" for tipping off the FBI to a bomb threat that she believes never was.
"Does he understand what he's done?" she asked.
The four men detained Tuesday remain in federal custody on prior deportation orders. One was named by the informant as a conspirator in the alleged tunnel plot, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.
Federal officials discounted an ABC report that the informant might have lied because he had become involved romantically with a girlfriend of one of the men he falsely described as a terrorist.
The right call?
The decision to close the Baltimore harbor tunnels, which received national attention, drew little public criticism in Maryland yesterday.
After initially questioning the decision by state officials to close the tunnels Tuesday without warning, Mayor Martin O'Malley toned down his statements and suggested yesterday that there had been no major breakdown in communications between state and local officials.
"The fact that we can always improve shouldn't make you feel like there was another breakdown. There wasn't," O'Malley said at his weekly news conference. "The one little glitch we had was the lead time to accommodate the traffic. So, I think the rest of it went very well."
Maryland Transportation Authority Police Chief Gary McLhinney acknowledged that the decision to close the tunnels was made, ordered and executed within a few minutes, but repeated that the scenario had been under consideration for days.
McLhinney said the order to close the highways had to be made just seconds after the final decision because of the proximity of the suspects to the tunnels. Officials were concerned that the suspects could hear of the operation and move to "harm the tunnels."
During a radio call-in show, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said that the decision to close the tunnels was "not a close call."
"Obviously you have to move, but the generic question is what do we do?" the governor said on WBAL. "We have these opposing forces in our society. You have prosperous free country, freedom of movement, obviously free of activity against a war, and it's a very non-traditional war. It's a terror war."
The director of the Maryland Office of Homeland Security, Dennis R. Schrader, said the state will produce an "after-action" report on the shutdown of the tunnels and that McLhinney's agency will head up the effort with the support of the state's emergency management division.
The Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Affairs issued a statement yesterday saying said that reasonable precautions should be taken when there is a confirmed threat. But Shama Farooq, director of civil rights for the group, urged authorities to use restraint.
"We are concerned when members of a group that is already heavily profiled are targeted once again for an investigation or arrest that is based on uncorroborated information from an informant abroad," he said.
Egyptians living in Maryland are dispersed throughout the state, said Dr. Bash Faroan, president of the Baltimore County Muslim Council. In the 2000 Census, about 3,200 Maryland residents identified themselves as being of Egyptian ancestry.
Terrorism experts said yesterday that state officials made the right call in closing the tunnels in light of the information they had, but suggested that the federal government should offer more detailed guidance.
"This is exactly the kind of thing that the director of national intelligence and the National Counterterrorism Center are supposed to be involved in," said Michael Greenberger, director of the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security in Baltimore. "The very purpose of the center is to bring all intelligence analysis to one place and to advise consumers of that intelligence on how to respond to it."
Greenberger said the lesson learned from the Baltimore bomb scare and a similar threat in New York earlier this month is that "if we are going to have an effective federal intelligence network, it really has to be there to provide some solid analysis."
Without such expertise, cities across the nation could be crippled by similar threats at airports, bridges and seaports, he said.
"Everyone is left to their own best judgment," Greenberger said.
email@example.com Sun reporters Josh Mitchell, Lynn Anderson, John Fritze, Laura Barnhardt, Liz F. Kay, Siobhan Gorman and Nicole Fuller contributed to this article.
MIM: The above article cites an Egyptian man being held on immigration violations and it is possible that the US request for his extradition is related to the case below. In any event the failure of countries to reach a consensus regarding terrorist extraditions shows how countries are working on behalf of the terrorists and against their common interests by providing standard legal protections in terrorism cases.
Dutch Court forbids extradition of Dutch man to US
BRUSSELS, Oct. 13 (Xinhuanet) -- The district court in The Hague ruled on Wednesday that a 39-year-old Dutch man of Egyptian origid cannot be extradited to the United States, De Volkskrant newspaper reported Thursday.
Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner had previously approved the extradition request.
In the United States, the man faces charges of telecom fraud with the intention of facilitating telephone conversations between members of Al Qaeda.
The man appealed against Donner's decision in July and the court decided in August that a guarantee had to be given that the man's fundamental rights would be respected in the United States and that he would not be charged with other offenses than telecom fraud.
The court barred the extradition on Wednesday as it was not satisfied with response from the United States.
The identity of the man was withheld in accordance with the Dutch privacy law. Enditem