DOJ: Man involved in domestic terrorism plot targetting military and Jewish facilities sentenced to 22 years
July 29, 2008
MAN INVOLVED IN DOMESTIC TERRORISM PLOT TARGETING MILITARY AND JEWISH FACILITIES SENTENCED TO 22 YEARS
SANTA ANA, Calif.—A former inmate in a California state prison who became part of a domestic terrorist cell that planned to attack United States military operations, "infidels," and Israeli and Jewish facilities in the Los Angeles area was sentenced this morning to 22 years in federal prison.
Levar Washington, 30, who was recruited into the terrorist cell while in state prison and subsequently recruited others into the plot, was sentenced this morning by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney. Washington pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to wage war against the United States and a weapons charge.
Two other defendants in the case—Kevin James, who formed the terrorist group which he dubbed Jam'iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, or JIS, while in a California state prison, and Gregory Patterson—also pleaded guilty last year to the terrorism conspiracy charge. Patterson is scheduled to be sentenced on July 9, and James is scheduled to be sentenced on February 9, 2009.
In plea agreements filed in federal court, James, Washington and Patterson admitted that they conspired "to levy war against the government of the United States through terrorism, and to oppose by force the authority of the United States government."
The fourth member of JIS named in an indictment—Hammad Samana—has been found unfit to stand trial and is currently receiving psychiatric care at a federal prison facility.
"The JIS terrorist group posed a significant threat of violent action against a variety of targets," said United States Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien. "Through the fine work of members of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, potentially deadly attacks were averted. Now, one of the members of this terrorism cell will not pose a danger to the United States for nearly a quarter century."
Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office, stated: "This case reminds us that Los Angeles is an attractive target for homegrown or radicalized terrorists, as well as state-sponsored terrorists. Los Angeles was spared a potentially devastating attack because of excellent police work and a cohesive team effort by JTTF members. This case serves as an example of how local officers are serving in the front lines in the war on terrorism."
After forming JIS in 1997 while in state prison, James recruited Washington into the organization in late 2004 while both were prisoners at New Folsom Prison, where James had Washington swear an oath of loyalty and obedience to James and to JIS. After his release from prison several weeks after taking the JIS oath, Washington recruited Patterson and Samana into JIS and had them swear oaths of allegiance and obedience to JIS. After forming this cell, Washington and Patterson conducted about a dozen armed robberies of gas stations to obtain money for the group's planned attacks in the Los Angeles area.
Samana researched targets and prepared a document called "Modes of Attack." The document listed "LAX and Consulate of Zion," "Military Targets," "Army Recruiting centers throughout the county," "Military base in Manhattan Beach" and "Campsite of Zion."
After Torrance Police investigators linked Washinton and Patterson to a gas station robbery, various Jihadist documents were found at a South Los Angeles apartment where they lived. In addition to the "Modes of Attack" document, investigators discovered a document titled "Notoriety Moves," which contained a James-authored statement to be given to the media after a deadly attack. The proposed press statement reads, in part, "This incident is the first in a series of incidents to come in a plight to defend and propagate traditional Islam in its purity." The document also warns "sincere Muslims" to avoid a series of targets, including "Those Jewish and non-Jewish supporters of an Israeli state."
The investigation into the terrorist conspiracy was led by the FBI's Long Beach Joint Terrorism Task Force, whose participating agencies include the Los Angeles Police Department; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the Torrance Police Department; the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department; the Long Beach Police Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the Los Angeles Port Police; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and the Redondo Beach Police Department.
Substantial assistance during the investigation was provided by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, Bureau of Investigations; the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; the California Department of Justice; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations; and the Department of Defense.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office worked collaboratively with the United States Attorney's Office during the investigation.
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.
Feb. 12, 2006 update: Young Israel of Century City, an Orthodox synagogue, was one of the targets.