An inside look at the NY terror case

By Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

The current “terror warning” issued by federal authorities is as real as it is dire. It is extremely important that everyone understands the current threat level, how the warnings originated, and to be on the lookout for suspicious activity. There is a real and present danger throughout North America despite the tiresome claims that such warnings are hyper-inflated or are mere distractions to the real news of the day. I will explain, hoping that the following information provides some valuable insight into this precarious situation.

Before doing so, current press reports blaming NYPD, members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, or other law enforcement officials for acting too quickly against an Afghan national and his associates must be addressed. Not only are such accusations misplaced, but malicious at their core. If there is any blame to be placed, it must be laid directly at the feet of the Islamic advocacy groups who have launched a crusade of politically correctness against law enforcement, encumbering them under the threat of legal action. It must also be placed at the feet of those government officials who have acquiesced to the very public and well-funded disinformation campaign that asserts that the loyalty of fundamental Muslims is to America rather than to their religious ideology.

The terror case of Najibullah ZAZI is a visible manifestation of such inane governmental policy and is a suitable illustration of the fruits of governmental acquiescence to Islam.

zazi-on-9newsOver a year’s worth of field investigation and covert surveillance of terrorist activity in the U.S., encompassing thousands of man hours and countless federal, state and local law enforcement assets was apparently compromised by a single phone call made by one man - a Queens, New York mosque leader.  The reported actions of that man, in the context presented in a criminal complaint filed last week, has made New York and all cities across the US less safe today from possible terrorist attacks. That phone call tipped off a man trained by al Qaeda in explosives that he was under surveillance by investigators. As a result, it is believed that as many as 18 Islamic terrorists and their explosives remain at large - last known to be in the greater New York City area.

The situation above resulted in a series of warnings issued by the FBI to law enforcement agencies across the US identifying possible methods and targets of active al Qaeda cells inside the United States. Based on information collected from raids in New York and Colorado, authorities suspect that areas populated by civilians that are not subjected to rigorous security screening, such as mass transit (e.g. buses and subways),  crowded entertainment venues (e.g. stadiums and theaters),  and other populated and iconic locations are high on the list of potential targets of multiple “teams” of terrorists. As a result of this multi-state investigation, these terrorists are known to exist but remain unidentified.

A taste of Kabul in America

To fully understand how serious this threat is and how it developed, a virtual trip to Queens is necessary.

Recent demographics put the Afghan population in the greater New York area at approximately 20,000. Based on my own investigative and surveillance experience in Queens and the surrounding area, it seems that there are at least that many in the Flushing area in the Borough of Queens alone. It is common to see groups of young Afghani men sporting full beards and traditional Islamic attire walking to the Hazrat-I-Abubakr Sadiq mosque for daily prayers. At times, it seems that Americans are the outsiders and treated with suspicion if not outright contempt by the immigrants. Attempts to gain information about any of the Afghan nationals from within the group are exercises in futility. American values seem to have been replaced by the values and culture imported from the streets of Kabul. Tolerance of their culture is demanded, while intolerance for American culture and values is evident.

Disdain for America, the elevation of Osama bin Laden to a hero’s status and support for the Taliban and the 9/11 attacks are all elements that can be easily found in this relatively small area of New York. In the week after the 9/11 attacks, the Hazrat-I-Abubakr Sadiq mosque played host to groups of supporters of the Taliban as fear of retaliation against the Taliban in Afghanistan grew within this immigrant community. Publicly, Muslim religious leaders denounced the Taliban while supporters were relegated to the basement at that location.

Feuding between ethnic factions within this area became apparent in the days after the 9/11 attacks. Much like a microcosm of Afghanistan, the Tajiks were pitted against the Pashtuns, the latter group vociferously supportive of bin Laden. A power struggle continues within the Afghan community, and support for the anti-American Pashtuns faction has been re-energized by US foreign policy in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East.

The growing undercurrent of support for the Taliban within the New York Afghan community is deliberately hidden from mainstream America by the pressure of political correctness exerted by various Islamic advocacy groups. While organizations such as the Council on American Relations (CAIR) claim that radical Islam is virtually non-existent or hyped by bigots and racists, the hatred of America continues to grow virtually unchecked on the streets of New York. The bullied media is misdirected or simply looks away, thereby perpetuating the illusion that radical Islam is the exception rather than the norm in the heart of “little Kabul.”

Meanwhile, fundamental Islam is permitted to metastasize within our own society.

Case background

The origin of the latest threat to the security of the US can be traced to the very heart of this New York City community.  The focus of this investigation is Najibullah ZAZI, a 24 year-old Afghan native who has been living in the US since 1999, including his years in Queens.  ZAZI, now a current resident of suburban Denver, Colorado and a shuttle and limousine driver for First ABC Transportation near the Denver International Airport, has been under surveillance by investigators for well over a year.  Before moving to Colorado, ZAZI lived in Queens, NY, where he operated a mobile coffee cart in Manhattan and attended the Hazrat-I-Abubakr Sadiq mosque in Flushing.

In August of 2008, ZAZI left the US for a five-month visit to Pakistan. ZAZI admitted to authorities that he received extensive training in weapons and explosives at known al Qaeda training camps in the FATA (tribal) region of Pakistan.

In the months leading up to his trip to Pakistan, ZAZI ran up more than $50,000 in debt on 20 credit cards. In March of this year, less than two months after his return from Pakistan, ZAZI filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

In the weeks and days leading up to the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, investigators conducting surveillance of ZAZI documented a number of communications between ZAZI and others in Queens. What they heard concerned counter-terrorism officials; certain keywords and references were being used that suggested that something was in the latter stages of planning.

Suddenly on Wednesday, September 9, 2009, ZAZI rented a car in Denver and drove from Denver to New York,afghannyc driving over 1600 miles straight through without stopping. Upon arriving in New York, ZAZI stayed at an apartment in the Flushing area of Queens that is occupied by a half-dozen men from Afghanistan. In consideration of the suddenness of his New York trip, intelligence gleaned from recent electronic intercepts, and a confluence of events that included the 9/11 anniversary, investigators made a confidential inquiry about ZAZI with Ahmad Wais AFZALI, 37, the Imam of the Hazrat-I-Abubakr Sadiq mosque where ZAZI is known.

According to officials close to this investigation, AFZALI provided assurance to investigators of his cooperation and confidentiality with respect to simply providing basic information about ZAZI and his associates. Despite those assurances and immediately following that contact, AFZALI reportedly contacted ZAZI by telephone and warned him of surveillance, which was documented by the communications intercepted by authorities.

Facing the prospect of an extended surveillance operation going bad, and considering the possibility that any plans made could be hastened by outcomes from the subject being made aware of surveillance, law enforcement officials had a decision to make. If they erred in timing, they did so with an abundance of caution. That scenario was made publicly visible by the emergency search warrants executed during the early morning hours of Monday, September 14, 2009.

When confronted by officials, however, AFZALI denied that he tipped off ZAZI during the telephone call. Law enforcement officials, however, had the transcripts of the conversation from the electronic intercepts that suggested otherwise. Accordingly, authorities arrested the 37 year-old Afghani native and Imam of the Flushing, NY mosque.

Following his arrest for lying to authorities, AFZALI retained the well-known high profile attorney Ron Kuby, who claims that his client’s reward for attempting to assist investigators was his arrest.

Execution of warrants

It was late Sunday evening when various members of law enforcement suited up for raids at multiple locations in Queens. It was early Monday morning when they executed the warrants on the various residential locations in Queens, including the apartment ZAZI stayed during his brief NY layover. ZAZI, meanwhile, continuing to be under surveillance, left the New York area and returned to Colorado by plane.

At the apartment where ZAZI stayed in Queens, Afghani national Naiz KHAN publicly denied knowing ZAZI or for that matter, any of his other five Afghan roommate well - despite living in the same apartment and going to the same mosque.

Evidence found

Searches of ZAZI’s car and other locations found a laptop containing images of nine handwritten pages detailing the manufacture and handling of explosives, detonators and fuses.  The notes were sent last December from an e-mail account reportedly used by ZAZI in Peshawar, Pakistan.  Authorities also found a quantity of newly purchased backpacks and numerous cellular phones during their searches in New York.  ZAZI had also taken video of the interior and exterior of Grand Central Station with his cell phone. The search of the New York apartment where he stayed turned up a black scale and several batteries - and that testing detected ZAZI’s fingerprints. Initial reports also noted that field tests for explosives turned up positive.

Concurrent with those raids, authorities also searched locations in the greater Denver, Colorado area. Surveillance was also expanded to include others in New York and Colorado, as the activities of the persons of interest

Backpack bombs constructed by Muslim terrorists ripped apart four commuter trains and killed 191 people in Madrid on March 11, 2004. On July 7, 2005, bombing attacks killed 52 people in an attack on London’s subway and bus systems.

Blowback”

Thanks in part to ZAZI being warned of surveillance, it can be argued that officials were forced to act prematurely. The “good news” is that officials indeed found evidence of a terror plot underway and disrupted the plot. The “bad news” is that investigators did not find the explosives, nor were all of the other suspects identified. Also, the charges against the suspected terrorists are relatively minor compared to the potential charges that could have been filed had the investigation and surveillance progressed without hindrance.

There is a growing sense of frustration among some members of law enforcement over this case, and there is a sentiment that their efforts to keep Americans safe were intentionally thwarted. The situation is currently being exacerbated by those who maintain that an Islamic outreach must be allowed to exist within the law enforcement community. Based on the results of this case alone, I must ask a question of those who have exchanged our security for political correctness, “how’s that working out for you?”

Resources: (PDF files):

Criminal complaint ( Najibullah ZAZI)

Criminal complaint (Mohammed ZAZI)