Federal prosecutors in New York and Chicago announced Tuesday morning the indictments of two separate groups of men alleged to be engaged in terrorist activities both at home and abroad.
In the Southern District of New York, Patrick Nayyar and Conrad Stanisclaus Mulholland have been charged with providing weapons to Hizballah, a designated foreign terrorist organization based in Lebanon. Among the items which Nayyar and Mulholland attempted to transmit to Hizballah were guns, ammunition, vehicles, bulletproof vests, and night vision goggles.
In the Northern District of Illinois, David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana are accused of engaging in a conspiracy to commit terrorist acts against overseas targets, including Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the prophet Muhammed four years ago. The defendants, working with members of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Harakut-ul Jihad Islami took a number of trips to Pakistan for training and conducting surveillance of potential targets.
As David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, explained: "This case is a reminder that the threat posed by international terrorist organizations is global in nature and requires constant vigilance at home and abroad." In fact, when considered in the context of recent cases, the threat of home grown terrorism is all too real. Each of the individuals arrested were residents of their respective cities having established ties to the communities in which they were operating. At least one of them, Nayyar, was residing in the U.S. illegally at the time of his arrest.
Recognizing the global scope of terrorism, these investigations thus far demonstrate international cooperation. Both investigations were run by respective offices of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and assisted by state, local, and international law enforcement officials. In particular, the investigation in Chicago included collaboration with Pakistani authorities who were assisting in tracking the whereabouts of the defendants while they were outside of the United States.
Each of these cases also highlights two very important counter-terrorism tools that have recently come under fire—the "material support" proscription and the use of confidential informants.
Both of the indictments released this morning include counts for violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B, the "material support" statute. In New York, the defendants have been accused of supporting Hizballah, while the Chicago defendants are alleged to have assisted Lashkar-e-Taiba. The "material support" statute is consistently used by federal law enforcement officials to dry up the support network of international terrorist organizations, and these latest arrests are indicative of that. With these arrests, for instance, federal prosecutors in New York have literally taken weapons out of the hands of those seeking to harm United States citizens both at home and abroad.
The second tool is the use of confidential informants. While civil liberties groups will likely come out shouting in unison about entrapment and other forms of police misconduct, the use of informants in these cases demonstrate their efficacy. During a series of meetings with a confidential informant working with the FBI, who represented himself as working for Hizballah, Nayyar and Mulholland agreed to sell guns, ammunition, vehicles, bulletproof vests, and night vision goggles, to the organization.
Although both of these cases are in the early stages and remain under investigation, they show a strong and effective counter-terrorism policy at work.