FBI: Active terror cell aimed at “real deal” NYC attack
posted at 1:36 pm on September 21, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Two new reports from ABC and the Washington Post underscore the “real deal” nature of the al-Qaeda terror cell uncovered this month in a flurry of arrests and search warrants. Sources within the investigation now claim that Najibullah Zazi left his fingerprints all over evidence that points to a terrorist attack, which may account for his reported flirtation with a plea bargain. Others tell ABC that they haven’t yet identified all the plotters:
Investigators said they found notes describing how to make bombs in the handwriting of an airport shuttle driver arrested as part of a terrorism investigation, and they also discovered his fingerprints on materials — batteries and a scale — that could be used to make explosives.
The emerging details show that Najibullah Zazi, who has admitted receiving weapons training from al-Qaeda, played a direct role in an alleged terror plot, authorities said in court documents released Sunday. …
The FBI said it found images of nine pages of handwritten notes on a laptop containing formulas and instructions for making a bomb, detonators and a fuse.
Zazi told the FBI that he must h ave unintentionally downloaded the notes as part of a religious book he downloaded in August. Zazi said he “immediately deleted the religious book within days of downloading it after realizing that its contents discussed jihad.” However, an arrest affidavit says the handwriting on the notes appeared to be Zazi’s. The affidavit doesn’t mention that they were part of a book, but that they were e-mailed as an attachment between accounts believed owned by Zazi in December, including an account that originated in Pakistan.
“It appeared to be consistent with the handwriting as it appeared in the document,” an FBI agent wrote of comparisons of Zazi’s handwriting with the notes.
In addition, agents found Zazi’s fingerprints on a scale and double-A batteries seized during a raid at a home in the New York City borough of Queens on Sept. 14.
Zazi’s legal team denies that it discussed a plea bargain last week, but they may not have a lot of choice. If the FBI sources are correct about this evidence, it will be very difficult for Zazi to argue to a jury of New Yorkers that plans for bombs from his e-mail as well as equipment for making them just wound up with his fingerprints by mistake. Zazi isn’t OJ Simpson, and this won’t be a Los Angeles celebrity trial.
ABC offers this less optimistic update:
After overnight arrests this weekend in the alleged New York terror plot, FBI agents believe an active terror cell directed by al Qaeda was preparing an attack on New York City, and authorities say they have yet to identify everyone involved.
Officials say they do not have specifics on the potential targets of the alleged plot, and with so much still unknown, security in New York has been heightened.
A familiar face has joined the defense team for one of the arrested suspects:
Also arrested this weekend was Ahmed Afzali, who was apprehended in his Queens, NY home and charged with making false statements to federal agents. He is alleged to have falsely told authorities that he didn’t tell the Zazis he had been asked by officials about them.
Afzali’s attorney Ron Kuby told ABC News that his client, a respected imam at a Queens, NY mosque who had worked as a source for law enforcement in the past, was doing what authorities asked him to do.
“It was the government that went to him and said we need to know the whereabouts of Najibullah Zazi,” Kuby said. He said that Afzali then reached out to others to find Zazi, located and spoke to him, and then “duly reported this to the FBI.”
“Now the FBI claims he didn’t report everything, or he stated some details of the conversation wrong, so they arrest him,” Kuby said. ” So this is his reward for being a good member of the community.”
Kuby was a protege of William Kunstler, who made his reputation by defending radicals in the 1960s and 1970s. It doesn’t surprise me to see Kuby on the defense in this case. At the very least, the defendants will not be able to claim that they didn’t get adequate representation.