(Scroll to the bottom for the Saturday updates)
Score ANOTHER big one for the good guys. Via AP:
NEW YORK – A terrorist plot to inflict death and destruction by attacking train tunnels used by tens of thousands of commuters each day was thwarted before the men could travel to the United States, authorities said Friday.
Eight suspects — including an al-Qaida loyalist arrested in Lebanon and two others in custody elsewhere — had hoped to pull off the attack in October or November, federal officials said. But federal investigators working with their counterparts in six other countries intervened.
“It was never a concern that this would actually be executed,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “We were, as I say, all over this.”
Initial reports said that the terrorists wanted to attack the Holland Tunnel, a major thoroughfare for cars entering Manhattan. But officials said the group had specifically mentioned only the PATH train tunnels that commuters travel through on their way to New York and New Jersey.
“This is a plot that involved martyrdom and explosives” and focused on the “tubes that connect Jersey and lower Manhattan,” said FBI Assistant Director Mark J. Mershon.
A federal law enforcement official said the suspects hoped to inflict damage on the U.S. economy.
I wonder how long it will take for the usual suspects to claim this, too, was ‘overhyped‘?
Update II: I swear the ‘bats are out in full force today. The Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson opines that the news about the foiled attacks on the PATH train tunnels was a carefully timed was leaked by none other than Karl Rove himself to coincide with the anniversary of the 7-7 attacks in London. (Hat tip: LGF)
Sat PM Update I: I knew this would happen! CBS is quoting a “senior official” as claiming this foiled attack was mere “jihadist bravado” more than the real deal:
Despite the FBI’s announcement that it disrupted a terror plot against New York City-area commuter trains Friday, CBS News correspondent Jim Stewart has learned that the plans were mere “jihadist bravado,” according to one senior official.
Sat PM Update II: The NYT is now complaining about “pre-emptive arrests”:
But the Miami and New York cases are inspiring a new round of skepticism from some lawyers who are openly questioning whether the government, in its zeal to stop terrorism, is forgetting an element central to any case: the actual intent to commit a crime.
“Talk without any kind of an action means nothing,” said Martin R. Stolar, a New York defense lawyer. “You start to criminalize people who are not really criminals.”
In the two most recent plots, the authorities have simultaneously warned that the suspects were contemplating horrific attacks — blowing up the Sears Tower in Chicago and setting off a bomb in a tunnel between New York and New Jersey — but then added that as far as they knew, no one was close to actually making such a strike.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a Justice Department tally, 261 defendants have been convicted or have pleaded guilty in terrorism or terrorism-related cases. But many of those cases have only remote connections to actual terrorism plots, like the case involving six men from Lackawanna, N.Y., who pleaded guilty to attending a terrorist training camp, but never actually taking part in a terror plot.
Get that? It’s not actually ‘criminal’ to plot a terrorist attack against this country – unfreakingbelieveable!
But Pasquale J. D’Amuro, former assistant director in charge of the F.B.I. office in New York, said law enforcement officials had no choice but to act pre-emptively, even if planning has not yet turn into an active plot.
“When they go operational, they run silent,” Mr. D’Amuro said. “It becomes very difficult to follow them and try to trail them.”
Mr. Chertoff acknowledged the debate on Friday, saying he had heard criticism by some that “the people you are arresting are not really serious or they don’t really have the capacity of actually carrying something out.”
But he said the lesson not only of Sept. 11, but of terrorist attacks since then, including bombings last year in London, was that the government had no other choice. That means, he said, acting sooner rather than later, even if it may result in skeptics suggesting the plots were more imaginary than real.
“We are dangerously putting people at risk if somehow we believe that only criminal masterminds or terrorist masterminds are a threat,” he said.
The voice of reason speaks – thank goodness.
(Original date and time of this post 7/7/06 – 5:54 PM