June 13th 2009

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Beijing mocks Universal Declaration of Human Rights

EDITORIAL: Recession: end of the beginning ... or beginning of the end?

EUTHANASIA: Dr Death's travelling road show

POPULATION: Billionaire club seeks to curb world's population

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Is Barnaby Joyce a leader in the making?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Why Rudd's emissions trading scheme should be defeated

GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Fundamental change is needed, but probably won't happen

GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR: FBI foils new terrorist attack on New York

SRI LANKA: Mass carnage of Tamils in war without witnesses

INDIA: India's Congress alliance's strengthened mandate

CHINA: Growth slump worries Beijing leadership

ASIA-PACIFIC REGION: Japan set to expand its naval capabilities

OBITUARY: Jerzy Zubrzycki MBE CBE AO - A champion of human freedom and dignity

OPINION: Employee share ownership under threat

AS THE WORLD TURNS: The word is out/ Sharia law vs. prairie law

Housing affordability and land prices (letter)

Religious zeal (letter)

Fuddled logic (letter)

Contrarianism? (letter)

CINEMA: 'The Baader Meinhof Complex' - film whitewashes notorious terrorist gang

BOOKS: I AM MELBA: A Biography, by Ann Blainey

BOOKS: AN AWKWARD TRUTH: The Bombing of Darwin, February 1942, by Peter Grose

Books promotion page

FBI foils new terrorist attack on New York

by John Miller

News Weekly, June 13, 2009
Four US Muslim citizens have been arrested on terrorism charges. John Miller reports.

On May 20 this year, four US Muslim citizens were arrested and charged under counter-terrorism legislation for allegedly planning to shoot down military planes and detonate car-bombs near New York synagogues.

It is believed that the suspected terrorists had both explosives and Stinger ground-to-air missiles in their armoury, and that they were prepared to use laser beams to blind pilots.

Their stated aims, as revealed to the media, were to shoot down military planes from the New York Air National Guard base at Stewart airport in Newburgh, and blow up Jewish premises and synagogues in New York's Bronx district.

The suspected terrorists' alleged choice of targets was quite significant as it provides a window into the hatred of the Islamic fundamentalist mind-set.

Their subsequent arrests followed a long-running investigation by America's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Threat "real"

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, said, "While the bombs these terrorists attempted to plant ... were - unbeknownst to them - fake, this latest attempt to attack our freedoms shows that the homeland security threats against New York City are sadly all too real."

Predictably, elements of the US media gleefully proclaimed this to be a home-grown terrorist plot. However, this is not necessarily so. Things are not always what they seem to be. We will have to wait for the four accused men to come before court again later this month when the prosecution will presumably set out its case against them in full.

I myself am punctilious about the use of the term "home-grown" with respect to terrorists. Theodore Kaczynski (also known as the Unabomber) and Timothy McVeigh were both born and raised in the US and can be described fairly as home-grown terrorists.

However, once details of the four recent Muslim terrorist suspects were released, the case became shrouded in the usual fog and obfuscation.

What stands out is that the four suspects were Afro-Americans, three of them US citizens and the fourth a Haitian national with residency status. They were also petty criminals who had spent time in jail for various offences.

While incarcerated, at least two of the four had converted to Islam, while the other two also professed to be Muslims with a hatred of Israel and US policy in the Middle East. That supposedly provided the motive for their proposed series of attacks.

The US national media took great interest in the arrests, the New York majors especially so. This was to be expected in the city that suffered the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. (Recently, New York residents panicked - needlessly, as it tuned out - when the presidential 747 jet Airforce One, trailed by fighter planes, flew extra low over New York's most famous landmarks for a photo opportunity. The White House later apologised profusely for the widespread alarm that this had caused).

There was near-unanimous praise in the US media for the authorities in rounding up the dangerous group of suspected terrorists before it could act.

Then it transpired that one of the four had been an FBI plant and that the weapons and other devices in their possession were in fact fakes provided by an undercover FBI agent. Naturally enough, this revelation provoked a predictable outcry protesting that the FBI had resorted to entrapment.

Ideologically-driven radical leftist Internet sites such as the World Socialist Web would claim that this was yet another "government-orchestrated plot".

Some commentators, without condoning the alleged terrorist plot, nevertheless highlighted the minority and lower socioeconomic status of the suspects, who were variously described as having low IQs and being socially maladjusted, having already spent time in prison. Conspiracy theorists regard it as self-evident that these people were encouraged and led by the FBI in order to keep the homeland security pot simmering.

It will be worthwhile to follow the trial in the coming months, as the legitimacy of the FBI's covert methods will be tested. Undoubtedly, the prosecution will argue that the defendants were ready to commit a terrorist act and that the public were fortunate that the FBI had penetrated the group.

By contrast, the defence will retort that, without the FBI's involvement, there would not have been a plot in the first place.

This argument is familiar in the United Kingdom and has a resonance in Australia with recent terrorist trials. It raises the issue of just how far the security authorities can go in managing the path of a plot.

News Weekly readers, as they watch this New York trial unfold, should note carefully the sentiments and protests of the usual bleeding hearts and civil libertarians in our society.

What appears to be a fairly straightforward legal matter could have profound effects for counter-terrorist law around the globe.

- John Miller is a former senior intelligence officer.

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