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How the NYPD Overstated Its Counterterrorism Record

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Posted on Jul 11, 2012
Stig Nygaard (CC BY 2.0)

By Justin Elliott, ProPublica

(Page 4)

Cases in which an alleged idea for an attack was not pursued:

  • “Subway cyanide” This alleged plot, first detailed by journalist Ron Suskind in 2006, was reportedly for a chemical attack on the New York subway system. Suskind reported that a U.S. intelligence source had said that al Qaeda was considering such an attack in 2003 but ultimately abandoned the idea. There is no evidence that the NYPD or any other law enforcement agency played any role in al Qaeda’s decision to abandon the idea. There were also reported doubts about the quality of the intelligence and the credibility of the alleged plot.

    “None of it has been confirmed in three years,” a U.S. official told the Times, “who these guys were, whether they in fact had a weapon, or whether they were able to put together a weapon, whether that weapon has been defined and what it would cause or whether they were even in New York.”

  • “NYSE/ Citi HQ” A British citizen named Dhiren Barot or Issa al-Hindi was arrested in the U.K. in 2004 and pleaded guilty two years later to conspiracy to murder. He had attended terrorist training camps and had contacts with Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, according to the government. He had taken video and photos of landmark sites in New York in 2000 and 2001 including the New York Stock Exchange and the headquarters of Citigroup.

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    An appeals court later reduced his sentence from 40 to 30 years, citing the “uncertainty” as to whether Barot’s conspiracy would ever have amounted to an actual attempted attack, and the court’s conclusion that one of the ideas for an attack in the United Kingdom was “amateurish.” The appeals ruling also noted that after Sept. 11, Barot’s plans for any attack in the U.S. “may have been ‘shelved’” to focus on the U.K. The court also noted that there was no evidence that al Qaeda leadership had endorsed any of the ideas. Prosecutors also accepted that there was no money or equipment lined up for any of the ideas.

    There is no evidence the NYPD had any role in the investigation that led to Barot’s capture.

  • Garment District Uzair Paracha, a young Pakistani living in the United States, was convicted in 2005 of providing material support to al Qaeda. Prosecutors said that Paracha had tried to help a Pakistani al Qaeda member named Majid Khan gain entrance to the U.S., including a scheme to fool immigration authorities into letting Khan into the country.

    The NYPD list says that “Paracha is reported to have discussed with top al Qaeda leaders the prospect of smuggling weapons and explosives 2014 possibly even a nuclear device 2014 into Manhattan’s Garment District through his father’s import-export business.” But the indictment against him makes no mention of any such plot.

    Instead the NYPD appears to be referencing a claim by Khalid Sheik Mohammed to American interrogators that Paracha’s father, who is currently a Guantanamo detainee, discussed a plan with KSM to smuggle explosives into the U.S. through an import business he co-owned in Manhattan’s Garment District.

    KSM said he wasn’t sure of the son’s involvement and neither the father nor son has been charged with anything related to it.

    According to the government’s detainee assessment on the father, Saifullah Paracha, KSM said he wanted to use the explosives “against U.S. economic targets” but New York is not mentioned. KSM told interrogators that another man was to “rent a storage space in whatever part of the U.S. he chose” to hide the explosives. There is no claim in the detainee assessment that the idea ever got beyond discussion. Saifullah Paracha has denied the accusation. Mohammed also later told the Red Cross that in the period when he made the claims about the Paracha, shortly after his capture in March 2003 when he was apparently being subject to torture, he gave “a lot of false information” to interrogators.

  • Long Island Railroad Bryant Neal Vinas, an American Muslim convert from Long Island, was arrested in 2008 in Pakistan by authorities there. In 2009, then 26, he pleaded guilty to providing material support to and receiving training from al Qaeda. He told the court he “consulted with a senior al Qaeda leader and provided detailed information” about the Long Island Railroad in a discussion of a possible attack.

    But in a trial in 2012 in an unrelated terrorism case, Vinas testified that to his knowledge the railroad idea was not pursued beyond discussion. Published reports do not mention any NYPD role in the case.

 


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