FBI: July 4th terror attack on Cleveland thwarted

Chalk one up for the FBI. After coming across online postings from a wannabe radical-Islamist terrorist in the suburbs of Cleveland, investigators lured Demetrius Pitts, AKA Abdur Raheem Rahfeeq, into overt acts by posing as a member of al-Qaeda. An arrest was made over the weekend, the FBI announced today, and the home-grown terror suspect’s plans to attack during the Independence Day celebrations in Cleveland have come to naught:

The FBI in Cleveland has arrested a 48-year-old man it says was planning a July 4 attack in the city’s downtown, authorities said.

The man — who lived in Maple Heights, a southeastern suburb of Cleveland — was taken into custody Sunday, and he is expected to be charged with attempted material support of a foreign terrorist organization, said Mike Tobin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland.

Tobin said the man “wanted to launch an attack in downtown Cleveland on July 4,” and he met with someone he believed to be a member of the al-Qaeda terrorist network to further his plot. In reality, that person was working for the FBI, Tobin said.

According to information leaking out in several media outlets, the suspect also had aspirations to attack Philadelphia. The Washington Post reports that the man also had a personal connection to that city, which means he was taking the idea rather personally. However, Tobin also said that the man wasn’t going to place or activate the bombs himself, but rather act as an accomplice to a real bomber.

Surprise! Instead, he apparently found himself ensnared by law enforcement, who have been doing this for the last seventeen years with remarkable success. No doubt the suspect’s legal team will at least attempt to argue that the FBI created the threat themselves by entrapping an online loudmouth who never would have presented a threat without law enforcement enabling him. That defense rarely works, though, so a plea deal will likely follow shortly afterward.

Of course, the suspect didn’t exactly turn out to be a criminal mastermind, having used Facebook to launch his aborted career as a jihadi:

Over the course of the investigation, Pitts repeatedly told the undercover FBI agents that he wanted to join al-Qaeda. He had already begun to do recon work, Pitts said, walking around downtown Cleveland to scope out potential bomb sites, bragging at one point that he wanted to wipe St. John’s Cathedral “off the map” with a car bomb. Pitts then proposed a “blow up” at the Fourth of July parade:

After that final conversation, the FBI felt they had enough for the indictment and made the arrest. The city of Cleveland no doubt agrees. Pitts will be charged under 18 USC 2339B, “Providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations,” thanks to his repeated pleadings for AQ membership, along with other crimes. That’s a 20-year prison sentence for each count, and depending on how much he flapped his gums to the handler, there may be more than one. There’s also a $50,000 fine per count, a cost which seems unlikely to be covered by his pals in AQ.