Note: This article originally appeared on the website The Daily Beast. Click here to see the original.
Just when threats of terrorism had seemingly disappeared from the radar screen, Americans woke up Thursday morning to hear the news about four radical Muslims who plotted to bomb two synagogues in New York and shoot down a military plane using a Stinger missile. Fortunately, the FBI had infiltrated the plotters from the very beginning with a confidential informant who learned of the plan from an Afghan-born Muslim.
Prosecutors say the suspects obtained what they believed was a live Stinger missile and three improvised explosive devices with C-4 explosive. "While the weapons provided to the defendants by the cooperating witness were fake, the defendants thought they were absolutely real," said acting United States attorney Lev Dassin in a prepared statement.
Their intention was to punish America for killing Muslims in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The plotters identified two Jewish institutions in the Bronx to blow up using the C-4 plastic explosives and then planned on shooting down a military plane at a nearby military air base.
The virulent hatred for Jews was manifested in a statement made by the accused ringleader, James Cromitie. After lamenting that the "best target"—the World Trade Center—was no longer available, Cromitie spoke of killing Jews: "I hate those motherfuckers, those fucking Jewish bastards…I would like to [destroy] a synagogue."
As the plot developed and the would-be jihadists carried out surveillance, photographing synagogues and Jewish centers, the official FBI complaint released last night stated that "Cromitie pointed to people walking on the street in the vicinity of a Jewish Community Center and said if he had a gun, he would shoot each one in the head."
But Jews were not the only target. The complaint says the accused terrorists wanted to destroy American aircraft at a military base using missiles. According to the FBI document, would-be terrorist Onta Williams said the U.S. military "are killing brothers and sisters in Muslim countries so if we kill them here with IEDs and Stingers, it is equal."
There are several lessons that the U.S. government and public should finally learn from this plot.
The first is that the threat of home-grown terrorism is very real. The arrests come on the heels of convictions in a plot that targeted Fort Dix in New Jersey and one that sought to establish a jihadi training camp in Oregon.
All three cases ended without anyone being hurt—with the assistance of FBI informants. In Fort Dix, the defendants were arrested as they met with the informant to buy M-16 and AK-47 rifles to use in their planned attack.
As acting United States Attorney Ralph J. Marra Jr. said after the verdict: "The word should go out to any other would-be terrorists of the homegrown variety that the United States will find you, infiltrate your group, prosecute you and send you to a federal prison for a very long time."
In the training-camp case, the Seattle Times reported that "the government has relied significantly on information provided by James Ujaama, a Seattle man who lived in London for several years and became a confidant of radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, considered one of al Qaeda's leading supporters in western Europe.
And now, in the latest plot, the initial lead was developed by the confidential informant in a mosque in upstate New York. That's where the first conspirator confessed his desire last June to become a martyr against the United States.
Despite this record of success, protests and press conferences have been held by "mainstream" Islamic groups in California, Detroit, Chicago, and elsewhere during the past few months bitterly protesting the FBI's use of an informant in a California mosque. In that case, an FBI agent testified under oath that Ahmadullah Niazi had been trying to recruit jihadists and had disseminated al Qaeda and virulent and violent anti-American recordings. He allegedly exhorted the informant to carry out jihad, praised Osama bin Laden as an angel, and even promised to send the informant overseas to get terrorist training to carry out attacks here in the United States.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Public Affairs Council have jumped on the informant's role, accusing the FBI of sending him out on a directionless fishing expedition. In interviews and press conferences, they promoted the lie that the FBI has been infiltrating mosques across the United States and actually radicalized the members and exhorted them to carry out jihad. Niazi, however, clearly was identified as the promoter of jihad and bin Laden by the FBI. He allegedly lied about his communication with his brother-in-law, who provided security to bin Laden.
After news of the Fort Dix arrests became public in 2007, with references to an informant's role, Niazi sought a restraining order against the informant monitoring him. The FBI agent, Thomas Ropel, testified that Niazi repeatedly lied to him about the informant's statements and actions. The approach to law enforcement was facilitated by CAIR officials, who have accepted all of Niazi's claims and passed them along to the media.
Well, I have news for these Islamist groups and the gullible mainstream media that is in their pockets: Scores of mosques have been linked to terrorist investigations, indictments, convictions, and deportations. In most of these cases, it was not the mosque leadership that pointed out the existence of potential terrorists among them. In return, confidential informants have been vilified as "snitches" by the mosque leadership. In one celebrated case, an informant helped bring down a Lodi, Calif., man who attended a jihad training camp, lied about it to the FBI, and plotted to "carry out acts of terrorism in the United States."
After this prosecution, MPAC chief Salam Al Marayati warned the FBI not to come through the "back door" and "spy" on mosque congregants, asserting that the FBI had to go through the front door; i.e., get formal permission before the FBI could ask questions. We can only wonder how far the Lodi plot would have advanced had law enforcement acquiesced.
Instead of being forthcoming about the radical presence in their mosques, Islamist activists urge mosque congregants to keep their mouths shut.
We should not be surprised to find new examples of radical ideology that continue to fester in the Islamist leadership—controlled largely by the Muslim Brotherhood or the Wahhabis in this country—and to instigate groups like the Fort Dix and other homegrown Islamic terrorists into carrying out planned violent attacks. What is surprising is that we have consistently refused to learn from experience that these jihadists need to be fully identified and condemned as radicals. And we have to recognize that the leadership of national Islamist organizations—the same ones who project their responsibility on us by falsely claiming we are carrying out a war against Islam—have consistently protected the jihadists.
How many examples does it take to show the threat is far more virulent than the self-anointed spokesmen at CAIR and MPAC claim?
Xtra Insight: Steve Emerson: Call the Terrorists What They Are
Steve Emerson is executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism and author of five books on terrorism. His most recent book is Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the U.S.