Arresting Arab/Muslim terrorists in Detroit, Michigan

The 'Free Press' (www.freep.com) has an article that gives us more information on how some Islamic terrorists have setup a base in Detroit:

Convinced that Al Qaeda terrorists are hiding in southeast Michigan, federal investigators have focused much of the government's secret war on terrorism in metro Detroit neighborhoods.

The result is a massive, extraordinary network -- with undercover agents infiltrating Arab and Muslim communities, street informants feeding information to investigators, and cooperative, but wary, community leaders acting as cultural guides into the local Arab world.

The breadth of the probe is astounding. Every aspect of Arab immigrant life is being watched, from IRS scrutiny of international Muslim charities and businesses, to FBI surveillance of local meeting places, according to court records and interviews with federal officials, Muslim leaders and defense lawyers. [...]

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, 10 men living in Michigan or with strong Michigan connections have been arrested, held or sought in connection with terrorism-related cases. Among them are three men charged with operating a terrorist cell in Dearborn and Detroit that allegedly plotted attacks on U.S. interests.

For more information on Arab/Muslim terrorists who are in the United States, please read "American Jihad" - click here for additional details.

I copy the full article below.





Terror war hits home
Detroiters caught in widening investigation, November 12, 2002
BY TAMARA AUDI, FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
http://www.freep.com/news/
metro/watch12_20021112.htm

Convinced that Al Qaeda terrorists are hiding in southeast Michigan, federal investigators have focused much of the government's secret war on terrorism in metro Detroit neighborhoods.

The result is a massive, extraordinary network -- with undercover agents infiltrating Arab and Muslim communities, street informants feeding information to investigators, and cooperative, but wary, community leaders acting as cultural guides into the local Arab world.

The breadth of the probe is astounding. Every aspect of Arab immigrant life is being watched, from IRS scrutiny of international Muslim charities and businesses, to FBI surveillance of local meeting places, according to court records and interviews with federal officials, Muslim leaders and defense lawyers.

"Detroit is one of the major offices" in the national probe, said John Bell Jr., who retired in September as head of the FBI in Detroit. "A lot of work that's done here deals with the financial aspect of support for terrorism -- not only with collections at mosques, but with criminal activity."

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, 10 men living in Michigan or with strong Michigan connections have been arrested, held or sought in connection with terrorism-related cases. Among them are three men charged with operating a terrorist cell in Dearborn and Detroit that allegedly plotted attacks on U.S. interests.

Investigations similar to the effort in Michigan are playing out in other areas with emerging Arab populations, including Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. But in many cases, the road has often led back to Michigan.

Mark Corallo, a U.S. Justice Department spokesman in Washington, D.C., said of the probe: "It's the largest investigation in the history of the United States."

Federal officials stress that they do not think they are unfairly targeting an ethnic or religious group. The FBI, Corallo said, is interested in "all kinds of people in all kinds of places."

But Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based civil rights group, said the government appears to be narrowing in almost exclusively on Arabs and Muslims.

"We don't believe that just going to every Muslim individual or activist or anyone you can think of results in effective law enforcement," Hooper said.

Detroit's FBI office has more than doubled in size since last year and has purchased new surveillance technology and vehicles. Agents have repeatedly won court approval to tap phones, read e-mail and seize records from individuals or businesses in the metro area when agents could show reason to suspect a terrorist connection, Bell and others said.

Though federal officials will not say how often they have used those tactics, they said agents are working nonstop to translate taped conversations and documents generated by surveillance from Arabic into English.

Dawn Clenney, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Detroit, said the agency could not discuss the extent of the probe or investigative techniques. But she said FBI officials believe Al Qaeda operatives remain in Michigan, along with operatives forother terrorist groups.

Under the spotlight

Some Muslims and Arabs come under scrutiny the moment they enter the country.

At Metro Airport and border crossings such as the Ambassador Bridge, visitors from certain Arab or Muslim countries are to be fingerprinted and checked against a terrorism data base when they enter the United States. In late October, Canada warned its citizens born in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Yemen not to travel to the United States because of intense scrutiny.

Civil liberties advocates say agents have approached Muslims indiscriminantly, asking about travel plans, relatives and friends.

Among tight-knit religious congregations and extended families, rumors change daily about who might be talking to the FBI.

"I tell my clients not to trust anybody -- not even their own brother," said Doraid Elder, a Dearborn lawyer who has represented Middle Eastern men wanted for questioning after last year's terror attacks. "You don't know who's working for who."

The paranoia is so pervasive that even casual lunch meetings can take on treacherous double meanings. At a recent lunch in a Dearborn restaurant, two women warmly greeted two men who waved to them. Still smiling as she returned to her table, one of the women whispered: "I think they're informants."

Reports of undercover agents sitting in on Muslim religious services have reached Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi. About 500 people regularly worship at his Dearborn Heights mosque. He said he does not know whether agents have eavesdropped, and he tries not to be suspicious of newcomers.

"We have nothing to hide," Elahi said. "I would welcome the FBI to attend openly."

Greasing the wheels

To soften friction with Arab Americans and to strengthen the investigative network, federal officials also are courting Arab-American leaders and are recruiting Arab-American agents and translators.

In Dearborn, FBI agents set up recruiting booths at local colleges and public events celebrating the city's Arab presence. In Southfield, U.S. State Department officials have made pitches on an Arabic cable TV channel about a program called Rewards for Justice, which offers cash for information on terrorism.

FBI agents have received cultural sensitivity training over the past year from the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and watched educational videotapes on Islam made in Detroit and distributed nationwide.

Some residents have rebuffed the recruiting attempts.

A 29-year-old Arab-American resident of Dearborn, who asked not to be identified because he feared being tagged as an informant, recalled attempts by the Justice Department to hire him.

"They came to me and said, 'Would you work for us?'

To him, the underlying message was clear: "They want you to infiltrate your own community," he said. "I won't do that."

The search widens

With new antiterrorism laws, such as the USA Patriot Act adopted last year to allow agencies to share information more easily, investigators can cast a wider net than ever.

"We have done things under the Patriot Act that we weren't able to do before," said Mark Kroczynski, special agent in charge of the IRS criminal investigation division in Detroit.

IRS investigators are now playing a strong role in the terrorism investigation. Kroczynski said his investigators are tracking money trails from the metro area to the Middle East.

The IRS has 144 open terrorism cases nationwide, Kroczynski said. He would not say how many are in Michigan.

"Sometimes there's too much to go through," he said. "You leap in and see if there are other ties" to terrorist groups.

Government critics have accused investigators of leaping too quickly at times.

They cite cases that appear to have fizzled, as in the arrest of Nabil Al-Marabh, a man who federal officials once said was connected to Osama bin Laden. Al-Marabh lived in Detroit immediately before he was arrested in Chicago in the fall of 2001 in connection with the terror attacks on New York and Washington. After more than a year in detention, Al-Marabh is scheduled for deporation without any terrorism-related charges filed against him.

Strange bedfellows

Some informants, taking advantage of the government's eagerness to develop sources, have tried to use investigators to settle personal vendettas.

"People divorce, things go sour, the next thing you know, someone's calling the FBI," said Tim Attalla, a Dearborn attorneyand community activist.

In one case, an Arab informant agreed to help a divorced friend strike back at his ex-wife and former brother-in-law by making up a story to the FBI, according to sealed federal court records obtained by the Free Press. The informant told the FBI that his friend's ex-wife and her brother were smuggling weapons and making death threats.

In a phone conversation intercepted by the FBI -- and transcribed in the court documents -- the informant bragged about his perceived ability to manipulate the government:

"Stop being scared. . . . I know how the government operates, you do not," he told his friend.

"So, you devil, you were planning a strategy on how to hit them?" the friend asked.

"I am smart, keep quiet about this story," the informant said.

The FBI caught the informant, who has not yet been prosecuted.

Federal officials acknowledge that informants have tried to mislead them at times. But informants with valuable information have shady pasts, a reality that officials said they keep in mind as they try to sift fact from fiction.

Some informants get help becoming legal citizens, winning what is derisively known among immigration lawyers as a snitch visa. Others receive cash for information. The amount depends on the tips, a federal official said.

More than 8,000 Arab or Muslim men were sought for questioning after last year's terrorist attacks, including 930 in Michigan. Hundreds have stayed in contact with the FBI, Corallo and other federal agents said, offering varying degrees of help.

"We've had a tremendous amount of cooperation from the Muslim-American and Arab-American communities," the Justice Department's Corallo said. Federal officials said their efforts have thwarted terrorist attacks and provided valuable information about terrorist cells.

But some Arab Americans complain the investigation has mostly produced paranoia in their neighborhoods, damaged trust in the government and, in some cases, turned the community against itself.

"Being in Dearborn now is like being in a dark lake," said Elder, the lawyer. 'You don't see the gators, but they're down there."


Contact TAMARA AUDI at 313-222-6582 or audi@freepress.com

Posted by David Melle
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Comments

The good thing that we get out of this terrorism is more counter-terrorism laws were passed and with ease - without much bickering and protests from different sectors. FBI can do their work with more cooperation and help without having to deal much with bureaucracy. People are more understandable with all those inconveniences and delays in public places especially intrusion with their privacy as long as they feel safer.

Posted by: JLorton at February 23, 2003 01:12 PM


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