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Monday, September 06, 2004

So, Where Are Those "Sleeper Cells"?

Following the tragic events of 9/11, US Attorney General John Ashcroft has spoken extensively of the danger lurking quietly in our cities. According to this Sept. 8, 2003 ABCNEWS article on Iyman Faris,
Faris is one of more than 1,000 suspected al Qaeda sympathizers under FBI investigation across the nation. Hundreds of suspects are being tailed or are under electronic surveillance. Many came under focus because their names turned up in records recovered in terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.
Whichever way you look at it,- this appears to be a significant issue. If I remember correctly, some DOJ releases mentioned even higher numbers,- up to 5,000 suspected Al-Quaida "sleepers" in the US waiting to be activated. Even if the real number is 1% of that count, that gives a headcount of 50, and let us not forget that 9/11 was alleged to have been the work of a team 19 strong.

However, it looks like the DOJ's blood-curdling allegations are yet to materialize in any tangible form. According to this Daily Herald article,
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Attorney General John Ashcroft has touted his efforts to nab "sleeper cells" inside the United States.

But Ashcroft and his associates too often have sleepwalked. The Justice Department's admission Wednesday of potentially criminal prosecutorial misconduct in a prominent Detroit terrorism case does good for the cause of trampled civil liberties but doesn't inspire much confidence about efforts to find real terrorists who may be lurking in the United States.

The article addresses the government's setback in the recent Detroit terror case. The author then goes on to show that the above-mentioned case is more of a norm than an exception.

If this were an isolated instance, it would be one thing. But other cases have gone belly-up. In May, Ashcroft and the FBI targeted Brandon Mayfield, a 37-year-old Oregon lawyer, as being linked to the Madrid bombings. Defying the findings of Spanish investigators, they insisted that his fingerprints matched those on a plastic bag connected to the bombings. They didn't, and Mayfield was unconditionally released. Most recently, the Justice Department lost a case against a computer student in Boise, Idaho, who was acquitted of charges that he was raising money for terrorist causes.
And as I've said before, if one's aptitude in fighting terrorism were an important consideration for the US Attorney General position, Mr Ashcroft would be unlikely to still hold that job.

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