WNBC News in New York City reports that the NYPD, working with Suffolk Country police and the FBI, have concluded there are no terrorism ties to be concerned about in connection with their discovery that a man, described only as an Egyptian engineer who entered the U.S. on a Sudanese passport, has designed an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of carrying more than 600 pounds of explosives.
The engineer was assisted by a small group of men whom investigators surveilled as they drove a white van onto a tarmac, jumped out, and ground-tested the drone. There was no observation of the UAV ever getting into the air.
The testing of the drone was done in the dead of night on a little used airstrip in Calverton, Long Island.
I find this more than a little alarming, notwithstanding the assurances of police that “no ties to terror” have been found, their conclusion that no crime was committed (because there was no lift-off, which would have been a criminal violation of FAA regulations), and their apparent acceptance of the engineer’s claim that he is “an inventor hoping to sell this drone model to the U.S. military.” (The “drone project has now been taken over by a Maryland-based company that has registered with the FAA,” the report says).
First, as we might recall from other investigations over the past several years, it is the practice especially of the FBI to find “no ties to terror” in any case involving Muslims where there is no known evidence of a relationship between the subjects of the investigation and any established terrorist organization (such as al Qaeda or Hezbollah). Because of concerns about “profiling” — despite the fact that we are under siege by Muslim terrorists — the fact that investigative subjects happen to be Muslims is deemed irrelevant (as if, in a Mafia investigation, you would have to ignore whether a subject was Italian or not for fear of being accused of Italophobia.) There is no concession in the report that the subjects of this investigation are Muslims. I’m gonna go out on a limb, though, and guess there’s an itsy-bitsy chance given that the engineer in question is an Egyptian national with a Sudanese passport. The happenstance that the subjects may be Muslims would not of itself make them guilty of anything — but it’s not irrelevant.
Second, as I recount in Willful Blindness, the first known activities of the jihadist cell that eventually killed Meir Kahane in 1990, plotted to kill Hosni Mubarak in 1992, bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, and was stopped a few months later in the midst of plotting to bomb other New York City landmarks, was the FBI’s investigation of paramilitary training over several weekends in July 1989. The Muslim men in question — who at the time were not known to have ties to any established terrorist organizatoin but went on to carry out the aforementioned plots — piled into vans at a radical mosque in Brooklyn and traveled to a shooting range where they conducted shooting practice with a variety of weapons, including AK-47s. The FBI closed the investigation when the men discovered they were under surveillance and complained that they were being harrassed.
The shooting range they chose for the training was in Calverton, Long Island.