This one comes as less of a surprise to authorities, who have tracked Tarek Mehanna for at least several months.  Mehanna already faces one indictment for perjury in connection to the investigation, and now federal prosecutors have charged him with plotting jihad in the US:

U.S. federal prosecutors have charged a Massachusetts man with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, alleging he and co-conspirators traveled to the Middle East seeking training, discussed attacking a shopping center, and distributed videos promoting holy war.

Tarek Mehanna, 27, from Sudbury, Massachusetts, had been previously indicted in January 2009 for making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other officials in connection with a terrorism investigation, the U.S. Justice Department said in a news release on Wednesday.

“Mehanna and the co-conspirators had multiple conversations about obtaining automatic weapons and randomly shooting people in a shopping mall, and that the conversations went so far as to discuss the logistics of a mall attack, including coordination, weapons needed and the possibility of attacking emergency responders,” the Justice Department said.

This seems like a slow-motion terror operation.  Mehanna had been at it for seven years without actually taking any action other than conspiring and blogging.  Rusty at My Pet Jawa has some good background on Mehanna, written at the time of his initial arrest late last year.  That’s not a sleeper cell, it’s a coma cell, and after reading Rusty’s post, it appears that Mehanna was not trained for discretion.

The feds claimed in their press conference that Mehanna had conspired to target “executive branch” figures for assassination in the previous administration.  They didn’t get any more specific than that, but one presumes that Mehanna didn’t take much interest in Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta.  That wouldn’t be the first would-be jihadist to target the President; Abu Ali got a life sentence in 2005 for his plot to assassinate George Bush.