New York Cedes Ground in the Fight Against Terrorism

by Patrick Dunleavy
IPT News
March 7, 2017

Capitulation in a time of conflict is demoralizing to the rank and file charged with protecting the community they serve. This appears to be the case in the latest legal go round between the New York Police Department (NYPD) and Muslim activist groups.

U.S. District Judge Charles S. Haight Jr, is about to accept an agreement that will hand over control of the NYPD’s Intelligence Division investigations to a civilian monitor appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio. This is the same mayor who loudly cheered President Obama’s last-minute commutation of FALN terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera, who will be freed in May. De Blasio extolled the works of a man whose organization was responsible for more than 100 bombings, many in New York City, including one that killed four innocent people.

To understand the impact that this proposed settlement, between the NYPD, and the activist organization known as the Muslim Advocates will have on existing counter terrorism measures, we have to understand how vitally important is the issue of protecting cities against attacks by radical Islamist terrorists. The activist groups claim that the police department unfairly singled out Muslim communities in the greater New York/New Jersey area for investigation and surveillance. They also claim that gathering specific information about the neighborhoods amounted to unprecedented “profiling.” They point to a little known NYPD unit that collected the data and accuse it of spying.

Their argument belies the fact that collecting demographic statistics has been used for years by the U.S. Census Bureau to map out trends and changes in neighborhoods. Law enforcement agencies nationwide have used this practice for decades to investigate criminal organizations such as the Mafia, or Columbian drug cartels. The normal investigative process would include forensic examination of the communities most likely to be victimized by criminal organizations. The FBI did not set up surveillance in Chinatown when taking down the Cosa Nostra. They went to Little Italy.

Radical Islamist organizations have in the past infiltrated Muslim neighborhoods in the United States and exerted harmful influence on those communities.

For example, in 1990 a little known Islamic cleric named Omar Abdel Rahman came to live in the greater New York area. He visited mosques in Brooklyn, Queens, Jersey City and elsewhere, and before long forced out any clergy who were not in line with his radical ideology.

In Brooklyn’s Al Farooq mosque on Atlantic Avenue, where Mustafa Shalabi served as a treasurer, an argument occurred over how the money should be spent. Shalabi was found murdered in his Coney Island apartment not long after that fight. Another of the mosque’s clerics, a Sudanese imam named Zakaria Gasmalla, was forced out and moved his entire family to the Buffalo area to escape the pressure from Abdel Rahman and his followers. The Blind Sheik and his followers continued to use Muslim communities to raise money for their plots, to hide weapons, and to build the truck bomb that was placed in the garage of the World Trade Center on Feb. 26, 1993. Six people died and more than 1,000 were injured in the resulting explosion.

The first soldiers in the jihad against America lived within the Muslim neighborhoods in the New York/New Jersey community.

In 2000, two of the 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, settled into an apartment in a San Diego neighborhood near the Masjid Ar-Ribat al-Islami mosque. There Anwar al Awlaki, a young Islamic clergyman, welcomed them. Today we know the American-born Awlaki as one of al-Qaida’s most influential preachers and most effective radicalizers and recruiters.

Terrorists will seek out the neighborhoods where they feel most at home, a place where they can use the community to their advantage. Members of the Ribat mosque provided both transportation and language education skills to the two terrorists not knowing their true objective.

Minneapolis’ Cedar Riverside neighborhood has been dubbed “Little Mogadishu” because of it large Somali population. It is a community that has seen more than 50 of its members go overseas to join the Islamist terrorist organization Al Shabaab. Al Shabaab preyed on second generation immigrants who felt a disconnect between American society and their ancestral home. To stem the tide of continued recruitment by radical Islamist terrorists like Al Shabaab, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force successfully focused its investigation on the Muslim community in the greater Minneapolis area.

On the other hand, groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) seek to portray law enforcement as sinister characters sneaking through neighborhoods in trench coats looking to do harm to the community. One chapter urged community members to “Build a Wall of Resistance” and not cooperate with investigators in ongoing terrorist investigations. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Thankfully, many members of Minneapolis’ Somali community rejected this approach.

To blindly think that neighborhoods are somehow immune from the nefarious tactics used by either criminal or terrorist organization is to cede ground to those who would do us harm. Police departments exist to protect and serve communities and one of those tools most helpful is knowing the makeup of each neighborhood they patrol. Turning that responsibility over to a terrorist-friendly mayor will only handcuff police with the ambiguity of political correctness and lead to greater harm.

IPT Senior Fellow Patrick Dunleavy is the former Deputy Inspector General for New York State Department of Corrections and author of The Fertile Soil of Jihad. He currently teaches a class on terrorism for the United States Military Special Operations School.

Al-Qaeda Claims U.S. Killed ‘Blind Sheikh’ in Prison, Calls for ‘Violent Revenge’

Relatives and friends of "Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted of plotting terror attacks in New York City in the decade before 9/11, carry his coffin after funeral prayers at the Grand Mosque in the Nile Delta town of Gamalia, Egypt, on Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Mostafa Albasuni)

Relatives and friends of “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted of plotting terror attacks in New York City in the decade before 9/11, carry his coffin after funeral prayers at the Grand Mosque in the Nile Delta town of Gamalia, Egypt, on Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Mostafa Albasuni)

PJ MEDIA, BY BRIDGET JOHNSON, FEBRUARY 22, 2017:

Al-Qaeda accused the United States of withholding necessary medication from “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman, the mastermind of the deadly 1993 World Trade Center bombing who died behind bars Saturday.

They also released a final statement from the sheikh complaining of strip searches that explored his private parts “front and back,” claiming that he could be poisoned behind bars and calling for “the most powerful and violent revenge” in the event of his demise.

Abdel-Rahman, 78, was serving a life sentence at the Federal Medical Center, Butner, in North Carolina. He had been blinded at a young age by diabetes, and reportedly passed away from complications of coronary heart disease and diabetes.

In a statement issued by their As-Sahab media, al-Qaeda’s central command grieved the sheikh “after a battle with the tyrants of the earth lasted almost six decades of his life” and winding up “in the grip of the people of the Cross.”

The terror group also noted operations that had been conducted over the years in an effort to win Abdel-Rahman’s release, including the kidnapping of westerners by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb as well as al-Qaeda in Pakistan and its Yemen branch.

Citing Abdel-Rahman’s family, who first released the news of his death, al-Qaeda alleged “the Americans decided to kill him in prison” by withholding drugs.

Al-Qaeda encouraged followers to “slay” in the sheikh’s name as “Americans enjoy security and safety,” targeting U.S. interests everywhere.

Al-Qaeda also released a parting statement from Abdel-Rahman in their Al-Nafir Bulletin, in which he said the Americans were using his imprisonment to “rub the pride of the Muslims in the dirt.”

He complained of being filmed while bathing or using the toilet in solitary confinement, being strip-searched “until I am as naked as when my mother delivered me” before “they look into my private parts, from the front and the back — what are they looking for?” and of not having any fellow Arabic speakers visit. “If it were not for reciting the Quran I would have been afflicted with many psychological and mental illnesses,” he said.

The statement attributed to Abdel-Rahman also said he was prevented from Friday prayers and from celebrating Islamic holidays, or having “any contact with Muslims.”

“They are undoubtedly killing me, especially while I am isolated from the world. No one sees what they do to me in my food and drink. They may employ the method of slow killing with me, where they put poison in the food or a medicine or an injection, and may give me dangerous, bad medicine, or they may give me a quantity of lethal drugs or a madness-inducing drug,” he said. “This is in particular, while I smell strange and awful scents from the floor above me, constantly accompanied by a ‘whoosh,’ like the sound of an old air conditioner, with knocks, noise, and hammering, like the sound of grenades, which continues for hours, day and night.”

After offering several verses from the Quran, Abdel-Rahman continued, “If they kill me — and they inevitably will — publicize my funeral, and send my corpse to my family, and do not forget my blood and do not waste it.”

“Instead, avenge me with the most powerful and violent revenge,” he concluded. “Remember a brother who told you a word of truth and was killed in the way of Allah.”

Abdel-Rahman’s body was returned to his family in Egypt today via the Cairo airport. Thousands gathered in his hometown, Al-Gamaliya, for his funeral.

In an earlier issue of Al-Nafir released by their Global Islamic Media Front at the beginning of the month, al-Qaeda directly addressed President Trump, something official ISIS materials haven’t even done since Inauguration Day. Responding to the raid on an al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula camp, in which CENTCOM admitted civilian casualties, the terror group claimed “Americans in this massacre intentionally killed women and children, and even an infant in the womb was not spared.”

“And on this occasion we say to the stupid President Trump: The presidency of your country has had several presidents in years past, whom all have promised the American people to kill the mujahideen and excise them. However, they all ended up leaving the White House before fulfilling their promise, despite some of them having a second term. This is undoubtedly your fate, for the flame of jihad has ignited and reached all over the world.”

“Moderate” Muslim Brotherhood Mourns Terrorist’s Death

blind-sby John Rossomando
IPT News
February 21, 2017

Calls for revenge and glowing eulogies for Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman by the Muslim Brotherhood and its followers dealt a blow to efforts to paint it as a moderate group.

Abdel Rahman, known as the “Blind Sheikh,” died Saturday in a U.S. prison where he was serving a life sentence for a seditious conspiracy to launch what prosecutors called a “war of urban terrorism” against targets around New York City. He also helped plot the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 that killed six people and injured 1,042.

“May Allah’s blessings be upon him, the deceased of the Islamic call, who was imprisoned by different repressive regimes, who was falsely and unfairly accused of terrorism by the Unites States of America, while being old and blind Sheikh, it also prevented him from receiving medical care until he met his Lord, Oh Allah please accept him and have mercy upon him,” the Muslim Brotherhood General Office said.

Andrew McCarthy, who prosecuted Abdel Rahman, noted in a National Review Online column that the “Blind Sheikh” was proud of being a terrorist. This fact ought to raise red flags about the character of the Muslim Brotherhood.

McCarthy cited this Abdel Rahman statement as an example: “Why do we fear the word terrorist? If the terrorist is the person who defends his right, so we are terrorists. And if the terrorist is the one who struggles for the sake of God, then we are terrorists. We . . . have been ordered with terrorism because we must prepare what power we can to terrorize the enemy of Allah and your enemy. The Koran says ‘to strike terror.’ Therefore, we don’t fear to be described with ‘terrorism.’ . . . They may say, ‘He is a terrorist, he uses violence, he uses force.’ Let them say that. We are ordered to prepare whatever we can of power to terrorize the enemies of Islam.”

1988The Muslim Brotherhood’s official Facebook page posted another statement Saturday that was quickly taken down. The message, asking “God Almighty to bestow His Mercy, and ensconce him in the highest paradise of Heaven with the prophets, the saints, the martyrs, the righteous and the best of them as companions” was cross-posted on Ikhwanonline, the Brotherhood’s Arabic website.

Although Abdel Rahman left the Muslim Brotherhood to form the radical jihadist group Gamaa Islamiya in 1970 after the Brotherhood’s leadership renounced violence against the Egyptian government, Brotherhood leaders still mourned him in terms echoed by ISIS and al-Qaida. Mohamed Al-Sagheer, a former deputy minister of endowment in Egypt during the Muslim Brotherhood rule, called Abdel Rahman a “Mujahid” or holy warrior, in a video posted on Facebook. Muslims, he said, lost one of their most prominent scholars.

“May Allah avenge from those who did him (the sheikh) injustice, the Arab despots, and the crusaders, who loath and hate the faith and its followers,” Al-Sagheer said.

Al-Sagheer has ties to violent elements of the Muslim Brotherhood that have worked against the Egyptian government since the military forced the Brotherhood out of power in 2013, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reports.

Mohamed el-Feky, chairman of the economic committee of Morsi-era Egyptian parliament who now resides in Istanbul, similarly lamented Abdel Rahman’s death.

“May God have mercy on Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and gather him into the troop of prophets, friends (of God) martyrs and the righteous, with the best of them as companions. Oh, God, compensate him for his imprisonment, and the wrong done him, and bless him with good and increase. Oh God, curse those who wronged him, Oh Lord of the worlds,” el-Feky wrote on Facebook.

Ordinary Muslim Brotherhood supporters like Abdel Rahman Muhammad Lotfy Abdel Rahman called for American blood.

“If they killed you O Omar, Allah has chosen you among the martyrs! Allah will fight you O America … Today, America has killed one of the Muslim scholars after unjustly detaining him for close to a quarter of a century, that is Dr. Omar Adel Rahman, the pious scholar, who always uttered the word of truth, which resonated out of his mouth, he did not fear anyone but Allah, and we present him to Allah. We ask Allah to accept him as a martyr, they killed him for America and its allies, who participated in killing him,” Rahman wrote.

Inspiration For al-Qaida

Abdel Rahman’s ideas inspired Osama Bin Laden, al-Qaida and ISIS. He acted as al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s “mentor.” Al-Zawahiri frequently attended Abdel Rahman’s lectures as a young man in Egypt.

Al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden handed out copies of Abdel Rahman’s will at a 1998 press conference.

The will demands vengeance after his death. “But, take revenge for me against them with the most extreme and violent revenge.”

Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri also passed out a fatwa from Abdel Rahman smuggled from prison authorizing attacks against the U.S. at the 1998 press conference.

“Cut all relations with [the Americans, Christians, and Jews], tear them to pieces, destroy their economies, burn their corporations, destroy their peace, sink their ships, shoot down their planes and kill them on air, sea, and land. And kill them wherever you may find them, ambush them, take them hostage, and destroy their observatories. Kill these infidels,” the fatwa said.

Al-Qaida responded to Abdel Rahman’s death by including the incendiary will in its latest newsletter Al-Nafir. Numerous jihadi social media sites followed suit, and the will accompanied a joint statement by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), both of which are openly loyal to al-Zawahiri.

The joint AQAP/AQIM statement calls on their followers to “viciously avenge the sheikh against his oppressors and wardens.”

Supporters Remember Abdel Rahman

1986Said Abbasy, a Muslim Brotherhood supporter living in New York, wrote on Facebook, “The passing of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman in the prisons of America after 24 years of incarceration. Oh God take vengeance on those who wronged him.”

Muhammad Shoubir, a self-described Muslim Brotherhood supporter who lives in New York, called Abdel Rahman “our martyr sheikh” in a since deleted Facebook post.

1987“A martyr to the interests between Egypt and America,, (sic) A martyr to the injustice done to him during his trial and the concocting of an accusation against him,, No Egyptian defended him,, but they thrust upon him a guard and a translators (Egyptian) who spied on him, and misled him,, so that he was sentenced in 93 to imprisonment for life,, the man died after 24 years in prison … May God have mercy on our noble Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman,, He was wronged in your country, and elsewhere,,” Shoubir wrote.

Jihadis aligned with various undefined factions used similar rhetoric in their social media eulogies.

“Not with tears but with red blood. We will lament Imam Omar Abdel Rahman,” said handle @ Yubayatajrasi09, who lives in the Tampa area.

In an inflammatory Twitter post on Saturday, an individual identifying himself as Obamajahid pushed a baseless conspiracy theory to blame the Trump administration for Abdel Rahman’s death.

“Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman is among the first victims of the rule of the tyrant Trump where pressure was exerted upon him in his prison, and he was deprived of his medicine and his radio as was mentioned someone who contacted them last week,” Obamajahid wrote.

Another follower of Abdel Rahman’s, Yubayatajastri09, called for vengeance.

“Oh God, forgive us for our shortcomings with regard to him. And raise his degree and accept him among the number of martyrs. And take vengeance on the head of the viper America,” he wrote.

It’s hard to claim the Muslim Brotherhood opposes terrorism when it laments the death of the man who inspired an attack on New York City, plotted even greater bloodshed and inspired bin Laden and al-Zawahiri.

***

 

 

Al Qaeda often agitated for Omar Abdel Rahman’s release from US prison

blind-sheikhLONG WAR JOURNAL, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN, | February 19, 2017:

News broke yesterday that Omar Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian jihadi ideologue, died in a US prison. Within hours of the reports, al Qaeda re-released a copy of Rahman’s last “will,” in which Rahman asked his “brothers” to exact “revenge” for his death.

The US District Court for the Southern District of New York convicted Rahman (seen on the right) on terror-related charges in 1995 and he was subsequently sentenced to life in prison. Rahman was convicted for his role in a conspiracy to launch terror attacks against several New York City landmarks, including the George Washington Bridge, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, the FBI’s main office in Manhattan, and the United Nations building. Investigators also found that he was involved with the jihadists responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

The ninth issue of al Qaeda’s Al-Nafir newsletter, which was released online after news of Rahman’s death spread, carried a version of Rahman’s “Will to the Islamic Ummah.” In the text, Rahman complained of the treatment he was allegedly subjected to in an American prison, writing that the US is purposefully “eliminating the scholars who speak the truth.” (This is a common al Qaeda talking point, as the jihadis frequently accuse the Americans of targeting their “scholars.”)

Rahman claimed that the Americans will “eventually kill me,” either through poisoning, or by giving him spoiled medicine, or with an overdose of drugs. Rahman warned that the Americans will lie about the causes of his death, so the jihadis shouldn’t believe them.

Rahman, who was 78, died of natural causes, according to American officials.

His “will” has been a piece of jihadi propaganda since the 1990s.

“My brothers, if they [the Americans] kill me, and they eventually will do so, then perform my funeral and give my corpse to my family,” Rahman wrote, according to a translation of Al-Nafir obtained by FDD’s Long War Journal. “Do not forget my blood and do not squander it, but exact a severe and fierce revenge on them for me.” Rahman called on others to remember that he was their “brother” and that he “spoke the truth” in the cause of Allah.

Al-Nafir’s version is similar to the text that was distributed in 1998. In The Osama bin Laden I Know, Peter Bergen wrote that copies of Rahman’s “will” were distributed at a press conference hosted by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri on May 26, 1998.

Rahman’s sons handed out a laminated card with their father’s will, as well as a fatwa authorizing attacks against the US, written on it. The text of Rahman’s last will described by Bergen appears to be the same as Al-Nafir’s, meaning Rahman first warned that the Americans were slowly killing him almost twenty years ago. He eventually died — and now al Qaeda is using his death to call for retribution.

According to the translation obtained by Bergen, Rahman’s fatwa read: “Cut all relations with [the Americans, Christians, and Jews], tear them to pieces, destroy their economies, burn their corporations, destroy their peace, sink their ships, shoot down their planes and kill them on air, sea, and land. And kill them wherever you may find them, ambush them, take them hostage, and destroy their observatories. Kill these infidels.”

Rahman’s fatwa has been credited with providing theological justifications for al Qaeda’s attacks, as not many sheikhs endorsed bin Laden’s early vision of global terror. At the May 1998 conference where Rahman’s fatwa and will were handed out by his sons, bin Laden announced that he had formed the “World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders.” It was this front, which Rahman’s sons supported, that brought the war to American targets in Aug. 1998, when the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed.

Al Qaeda frequently took up Rahman’s cause through the years. Bin Laden often cited Rahman’s case as an example of America’s supposed injustice towards Muslims.

In his 1996 declaration of war against America, Bin Laden portrayed Rahman’s imprisonment as part of an alleged campaign against Islamic scholars. In 1997, according to the Washington Post, bin Laden accused the US of fabricating “a baseless case against [Rahman] even though he is a blind old man.”

A Presidential Daily Brief delivered to President Bill Clinton on Dec. 4, 1998 warned that bin Laden and his men were working with Rahman’s group, Gama’at al-Islamiyya (IG), to orchestrate an “aircraft hijacking.” The intent behind the putative plot was to force the US to free Rahman and others. The plot didn’t progress, but it was later seen as an early harbinger of the 9/11 hijackings.

In Sept. 2000, Al Jazeera’s satellite channel aired footage of a meeting of several jihadi leaders in Afghanistan. All of them, including bin Laden and Zawahiri, pledged to free Rahman from jail. “We promise to work with all our power to free our brother [Rahman],” bin Laden said, with one of Rahman’s sons by his side.

Zawahiri also spoke, asking: “Which one of us today would not sacrifice himself for this man who has supported every righteous stand and has been an unshakable leader?” Zawahiri continued: “We have a duty towards Dr. Omar Abdel Rahman, who has never abandoned a righteous stand. Do we now abandon giving him support and rewarding him?”

Al Qaeda and other actors continued to seek Rahman’s release in the years since.

After the revolution in Egypt swept Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011, Rahman’s cause became even more popular. Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood figure who briefly served as Egypt’s president, promised his supporters that he would try to free the blind ideologue.

Members of Gama’at al-Islamiyya who were closely allied with al Qaeda also helped stage a protest outside the US Embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2012. The protest was pro-al Qaeda, with the group’s black flag flying high and chants of “Obama! Obama! We are all Osama [bin Laden]!” ringing out. Some of the protesters cited Rahman in their rallying cries.

In Jan. 2013, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a notorious Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) commander, orchestrated a major raid on a natural gas field in Algeria. His men took dozens of foreign nationals hostage and demanded the release of Rahman in exchange for some of them. Authorities did not comply with the demand.

Al Qaeda still uses images and clips of Rahman in its propaganda.

On Feb. 18, the same day that Rahman’s death was announced, al Qaeda released Ayman al Zawahiri’s lengthy eulogy for one of Rahman’s longtime comrades, Rifai Ahmed Taha Musa, who was killed in an American airstrike in Apr. 2016. Taha and Rahman were both Gama’at al-Islamiyya leaders. Zawahiri praised Taha for taking part in the aforementioned Sept. 2000 conference in Kandahar, during which the jihadis called for Rahman’s release.

“Sheikh Rifai Taha, may God have mercy on him, took interest in the release of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman in deed, and not by merely begging America” to free him, Zawahiri said. Taha agreed with bin Laden that Rahman should be freed and said so during the conference, Zawahiri remarked.

Zawahiri’s video eulogy for Taha includes footage from the Sept. 2000 gathering, during which they praised Rahman. As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, used images of Rahman alongside Zawahiri and Taha to promote the video. (One such image can be seen above.) It may be the case that al Qaeda waited to release Zawahiri’s commemoration of Taha until Rahman died, as the timing of the video’s online distribution is especially conspicuous.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), both of which are openly loyal to Zawahiri, released a joint eulogy for Rahman earlier today. The statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The al Qaeda branches specifically mentioned Rahman’s will.

“We call upon the sons of Islam and its honorable knights, who were not successful in liberating the sheikh from his imprisonment, to earnestly and honestly work hard to execute his will, and to build from his blood a lighthouse that inspires the generations…to viciously avenge the sheikh against his oppressors and his wardens,” the statement from AQAP and AQIM reads, according to SITE’s translation. “This would be the least of what his brothers in Islam and pride should do,” the statement continues, as Muslims should “rescue…our scholars and our leaders who were faithful to Allah and never deviated from his path.”

Rahman’s teachings had a significant influence on the development of al Qaeda and modern jihadism. For more than 20 years, al Qaeda’s leaders made him a central part of their cause. The jihadis will almost certainly continue to use him in their productions in the years to come.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

Blind Sheikh Dead But His Network Lives On in America

Inset: the Blind Sheikh (Photo: Video screenshot)

Inset: the Blind Sheikh (Photo: Video screenshot)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, February 20, 2017:

The “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman, best known for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, has just died in prison, but his “work” lives on. He was not only a U.S.-based leader of the Gamaa Islamiyya terrorist group, but part of the connective tissue of an interconnected jihadist network that still operates today.

The “Blind Sheikh” and his U.S.-based network were like a cornucopia of jihadist offerings. His Gamaa Islamiyya, Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas, Jamaat ul-Fuqra (now known as Muslims of America) and other jihadist entities all overlapped “in a sort of terrorist ‘Internet,’” as one congressional testimony explained. It is through this “Internet” that the Blind Sheikh’s work lives on.

The best example is Jamaat ul-Fuqra, now known as Muslims of America, which is best known for its “Islamberg” headquarters in New York and its claim to having 22 such “Islamic villages” across the country. The Clarion Project has launched a comprehensive website about the organization at FuqraFiles.com.

A section of the Fuqra Files website documents the close ties between Fuqra and the Blind Sheikh. It is an odd match considering Fuqra’s ideology as a Sufi cult but was useful to the Blind Sheikh due to the group’s criminal experience and robust infrastructure including remote enclaves and jihadist training sites.

The Blind Sheikh was one of the very few Islamic preachers that Fuqra’s Pakistan-based leader, Sheikh Gilani, openly preached in support of. Despite being a cult dedicated to Gilani, authorities found posters of the Blind Sheikh when they raided Fuqra’s 101-acre terrorist training camp in Colorado in 1992.

Various law enforcement sources have told the Clarion Project that Fuqra had concrete links to the Blind Sheikh’s bombing of the World Trade Center and planned follow-up attacks. Some of the Blind Sheikh’s top operatives belonged to Fuqra’s network.

In fact, the links between Fuqra and Blind Sheikh were so strong that a 1993 intelligence report by the U.S. Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare said that Fuqra’s militant operations in the U.S. were essentially under the control of the Blind Sheikh, with Sheikh Gilani acting mostly as a spiritual leader.

Fuqra still operates in the U.S. today. The Clarion Project recently published a FBI report from 2003 warning that Fuqra has links to Al-Qaeda and members go to Pakistan for guerilla warfare training and possible involvement in other jihadist groups.

The Blind Sheikh essentially contracted some of his dirty work to other groups, such as Islamist criminal gangs. For example, Marcus Robertson, who led “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves,” served as a bodyguard for the Blind Sheikh, as did jihadists associated with Hamas. Today, Robertson leads a radical Islamic seminary in Florida.

The Blind Sheikh’s jihadist collaborators continue to be active enough for the NYPD to gather intelligence on some of them. One such example was Mohammed El-Shinawy, the son of a close associate of the Blind Sheikh’s. Elshinawy preached at two major Islamist mosques in New York, Masjid at-Taqwa (whose imam was also very close to the Blind Sheikh) and Masjid al-Ansar.

Another close associate of the Blind Sheikh’s, Hesham El-Ashry, also spoke at the mosque frequently and preached that the U.S. would suffer from violent jihad if the Blind Sheikh was not released. Notably, the Blind Sheikh’s release was a top demand of the Muslim Brotherhood after it took over Egypt, again reflecting the interconnectedness of the Islamist web.

The NYPD had a wealth of information justifying its intelligence gathering on these subjects. Predictably, the Islamists sued the NYPD, accused the police of anti-Muslim discrimination, elevated the radicals as persecuted victims and won favorable media coverage.

The Blind Sheikh is dead, but his network lives on.

Omar Abdel Rahman, the ‘Blind Sheikh,’ Is Dead

Omar Abdel Rahman in 1993 (Reuters photo: Mike Segar)

Omar Abdel Rahman in 1993 (Reuters photo: Mike Segar)

Abdel Rahman, the Blind Sheikh, was responsible for much of the last quarter century of terrorism.

National Review, by Andrew C. McCarthy, February 18, 2017:

Omar Abdel Rahman, the notorious “Blind Sheikh” who died on Friday night while serving his life sentence in federal prison, was never shy about being a terrorist. As he put it:

What kind of name is this? Why are we afraid of it? Why do we fear the word terrorist? If the terrorist is the person who defends his right, so we are terrorists. And if the terrorist is the one who struggles for the sake of God, then we are terrorists. We . . . have been ordered with terrorism because we must prepare what power we can to terrorize the enemy of Allah and your enemy. The Koran says “to strike terror.” Therefore, we don’t fear to be described with “terrorism.” . . . They may say, “He is a terrorist, he uses violence, he uses force.” Let them say that. We are ordered to prepare whatever we can of power to terrorize the enemies of Islam.

Before there was an al-Qaeda or an ISIS, there was the Blind Sheikh, known to his worldwide following as “the emir of jihad.” And he bears much of the responsibility — he would think of it as the credit — for what followed him. Indeed, bin Laden credited Sheikh Abdel Rahman with the fatwa (the sharia-law edict) that approved the 9/11 jihadist attacks in which nearly 3,000 Americans were murdered. Abdel Rahman had indeed issued such a fatwa:

Muslims everywhere to dismember their nation, tear them apart, ruin their economy, provoke their corporations, destroy their embassies, attack their interests, sink their ships, . . . shoot down their planes, [and] kill them on land, at sea, and in the air. Kill them wherever you find them.

Having been the lead prosecutor in the trial at which he was convicted, I find that barely a day goes by that I don’t ruefully think about this. For all the praise we received for a job well done — and I am immensely proud of the work we did — we only managed to imprison him. We did not stop him.

Abdel Rahman was the central character in a memoir I wrote about the case nearly a decade ago, Willful Blindness. The title has become something of catch phrase describing the wayward American approach to counterterrorism. I meant it as something more than that — a contrast: the steely determination that underlay Abdel Rahman’s clarity of purpose that the world be ruled by Islamic law, versus our own conscious avoidance of the sharia-supremacist ideology that drives the jihadist threat, and diffidence about whether our own liberty culture is worth defending.

He was raised in the tiny Nile Delta town of al-Gamalia, where he lost his sight to juvenile diabetes in 1942, at the age of four. The sickly boy was a prodigy, memorizing the Koran at an early age and developing into a renowned scholar of Islamic jurisprudence — the discipline in which he earned a doctorate, with distinction, at storied al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni Islamic learning since the tenth century. Abdel Rahman was deeply influenced by Ibn Taymiyyah, the 14th-century docent who had come of age in a soul-searching time for Islamic fundamentalism: after invading Mongols routed the Abbasid Caliphate, laying Baghdad to waste. Taymiyyah championed a return to basics: a literalist interpretation of scripture and the notion that the original Islamic communities forged by the prophet Mohammed were the ideal to which all humanity must aspire.

Abdel Rahman was also affected by contemporary followers of Taymiyyah. Interestingly, one was the Shiite jihadist icon, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Notwithstanding their theological differences, Abdel Rahman perceived in Khomeini the possibilities of Islamic revolution and the exploitation of what he saw as American weakness — particularly by Hezbollah, Khomeini’s forward jihadist militia that, among other atrocities, killed 241 U.S. Marines in their Beirut barracks in 1983. “If Muslim battalions were to do five or six operations to the Americans in surprise attacks like the one that was done against them in Lebanon,” the Blind Sheikh urged, “the Americans would have exited [the Persian Gulf] and gathered their armies and gone back . . . to their country.” It was a recruitment speech he delivered hundreds of times.

Abdel Rahman also revered Sayyid Qutb, his fellow Egyptian and a Muslim Brotherhood hero long imprisoned and eventually executed by the hated Nasser regime. From the premise of Taymiyyah’s teaching, and building on the foundation laid by Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Bannah, Qutb taught that Islam is “a declaration that sovereignty belongs to God alone”; that the “freedom” God offers is submission to His law, sharia; and that supplanting man’s dominion with Allah’s could never be achieved by “preaching” alone — it would require jihad “to wipe out tyranny” and impose this Orwellian conception of “freedom” on mankind.

Echoing Ibn Taymiyyah, Qutb’s jihad targeted not only declared non-believers but also those rulers who professed to be Muslim but did not adhere to sharia. Qutb also infused his teaching with visceral anti-Semitism, portraying the Jew as the instantiation of all that is anti-Islamic and treacherous. Abdel Rahman drank deeply from this noxious well.

The Blind Sheikh completed his master’s degree in Cairo in 1967, in the aftermath of Qutb’s execution and what Muslims still see as the humiliation of the Six-Day War. By the time he earned his doctorate in 1971, he already had a following of young budding jihadists. By 1973, the firebrand “cleric” (he is better thought of as a sharia jurist) was the emir of a jihadist organization, Gama’at al-Islamia (the Islamic Group). Essentially, it was a spinoff of the Brotherhood, comprised of young Muslims who had been lured into the Brotherhood’s sharia-supremacist ideology but were impatient with the Brotherhood’s methodical pace, which — in their view – too often failed to live up to the militant violence of its rhetoric, and too often played a double game of collusion with the secular regime Muslims were obliged to overthrow.

Abdel Rahman became most notorious for issuing the fatwa relied upon by the jihadists who murdered Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat at a military parade in 1981 — for the unforgivable offense of making peace with Israel. The Blind Sheikh was acquitted at his Egyptian trial when he defended himself with a stirring recitation of Islamic-law principles, exceedingly effective before a hypocritical authoritarian regime that nominally claims fidelity to sharia but does not actually enforce it. As he argued to the court, Allah’s commands hold that society must be governed by sharia; if it is not, it becomes the individual duty of every Muslim to perform jihad against the regime until it either is overthrown or enforces God’s law. This self-evident truth, he elaborated, required no scholarly fatwa. Thus, Sadat’s slayers were performing a sacred duty, and it was pointless to quibble over whether it had been authorized by him or by any man; it was dictated by the Koran.

It was the same defense the Blind Sheikh would later attempt to posit at his American trial. Suffice it to say that it did not have the same traction with a jury of New Yorkers sitting in a courthouse six blocks from the World Trade Center.

Though acquitted in Egypt, Abdel Rahman delighted in claiming credit for Sadat’s murder. Years later, safely out of Egypt and stoking new recruits, he would reflect that, of the “many jihad operations” carried out by his Islamic Group, the “most famous” one was “killing . . . the atheist, the oppressor and the profligate, . . . Anwar Al-Sadat.” But what about the result, someone asked. Hadn’t getting rid of Sadat only given Muslims Mubarak, who was worse?

Abdel Rahman would hear none of it. God “ordered us to eliminate” Sadat, he insisted, “even if this had to be done by killing him[,]” and even though Mubarak proved to be worse. Mubarak — “the third traitor, backstabber who became the loyal dog to America, . . . and was at the forefront of the treachery caravan to give to Israel and then America everything” — would, the Blind Sheikh assured, be dealt with in “another operation.”

While Abdel Rahman never managed to have Hosni Mubarak killed, he spent many years trying — and we ultimately convicted him on a count of conspiracy to murder the then-president of Egypt (one plan included trying to assassinate him near the U.N. in the early 1990s). Abdel Rahman could not fail to be pleased by Mubarak’s overthrow and replacement, in 2011, by a Muslim Brotherhood government whose platform included demanding that the United States transfer their beloved Blind Sheikh back home — a hope that was dashed when the Brotherhood government was ousted.

By the time he settled in the United States in late 1990, Abdel Rahman was a globally recognized . . . menace. He was deeply involved in recruiting and fundraising for the “Arab-Afghan” contingent that joined the anti-Soviet jihad (and to this day regards its service to Allah as responsible for the demise of the Soviet empire). His network of associates included Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Afghan warlord and former prime minister to whom much of the funding of the Arab fighters was channeled; Sudanese leader Hassan al-Turabi; and such founding figures of al-Qaeda as Ayman al-Zawahiri (Abdel Rahman’s Egyptian contemporary and sometime rival, who is now the international terror network’s leader) and Abdullah Azzam, the charismatic Palestinian who, like Abdel Rahman, graduated with a doctorate from al-Azhar and taught for a time in Saudi Arabia — where both Azzam and Abdel Rahman profoundly influenced a young student named Osama bin Laden.

Even before he settled in the New York metropolitan area (thanks to a tragicomedy of errors by American immigration authorities, who failed to notice he was on terrorism watch lists), the Blind Sheikh had an ardent following. His acolytes included Sayyid Nosair, Mohamed Salameh, Mahmud Abuhalima, and Nidal Ayyad — to name just a few. They used mosques and Islamic community centers as hubs for recruitment, fundraising, and paramilitary training — including shooting sessions in Calverton, Long Island, and drills involving explosives and close combat in remote areas of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. They would report on their activities in overseas phone calls to Abdel Rahman, which were recorded and used to draw young Muslims to the cause.

In 1990, Nosair murdered Rabbi Meir Kahane, the controversial founder of the Jewish Defense League, at a hotel in midtown Manhattan. On February 26, 1993, Salameh, Abuhalima, and Ayyad, along with Ramzi Yousef, carried out the bombing of the World Trade Center — a plot long in the making, much of which was planned during visits to Nosair at Attica state prison in New York.

By then, for well over a year, Abdel Rahman had been urging jihad against the United States from within the United States. America, he declared, was “the head of the snake,” the world’s leading enemy of Islam. A notebook kept by Nosair and recovered after the Kahane murder contained such teachings as this:

Before announcing the establishing of the state of Abraham in our holy land . . . to break and to destroy the morale of the enemies of Allah. (And this is by means of destroying) (exploding) the structure of their civilized pillars. Such as the touristic infrastructure which they are proud of and their high world buildings which they are proud of and their statues which they endear and the buildings in which gather their heads (their leaders).

In the run-up to the bombing, Abdel Rahman was in constant touch with the plotters. Just a few weeks before the explosion that killed six adults (including a pregnant woman) and caused billions of dollars in damage, he spoke at a jihadist conference, thundering that “God has obliged us to perform jihad,” and thus that “the battalions of Islam and its divisions must be in a state of continuous readiness to hit their enemies with strength and power.” Reminding the crowd that “the enemies at the foremost of the work against Islam are America and its allies,” he continued with one of his favorite themes:

If those who have the right [to have something] are terrorists then we are terrorists. And we welcome being terrorists. And we do not deny this charge to ourselves. And the Koran makes it among the means to perform jihad for the sake of Allah, which is to terrorize the enemies of God and our enemies too. . . . Then we must be terrorists and we must terrorize the enemies of Islam and frighten them and disturb them and shake the earth under their feet.

In the summer of 1993, we arrested the Blind Sheikh and eleven of his followers as they conspired to carry out an even more ambitious plot against New York City landmarks: simultaneous bombing of the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and the U.N. complex. Other potential targets under consideration were American military installations — which Abdel Rahman quite explicitly ordered attacks against — and the FBI’s headquarters in lower Manhattan. In October 1995, after a nine-month trial, they were convicted of conspiring to levy a terrorist war against the United States, including the WTC bombing, as well as the additional bombing plots and plans for various political assassinations. The presiding judge, Michael B. Mukasey — a peerless jurist who later served as U.S. attorney general in the Bush administration — sentenced the Blind Sheikh to life imprisonment.

As I said, we imprisoned him, but we failed to put an end to his reign of terror. Besides the fatwa that paved the way for 9/11, Abdel Rahman issued guidance to his Egyptian terrorist organization to end a truce with the Mubarak government. Lynne Stewart, the radical lawyer who had represented him at the trial, was eventually convicted of material support to terrorism for transmitting his directives from jail.

As I recounted in 2012, when the Egyptian press was reporting that the Obama administration was considering transferring Abdel Rahman back to Egypt:

In 1997, Gama’at al-Islamia threatened to “target . . . all of those Americans who participated in subjecting [Abdel Rahman’s] life to danger” — “every American official, starting with the American president [down] to the despicable jailer.” The organization promised to do “everything in its power” to obtain his release. Six months later, Gama’at jihadists set upon 58 foreign tourists and several police officers at an archeological site in Luxor, Egypt, brutally shooting and slicing them to death. The terrorists left behind leaflets — including in the mutilated torso of one victim — demanding that the Blind Sheikh be freed.

Gama’at subsequently issued a statement warning that its forcible struggle against the Egyptian regime would proceed unless Mubarak met its three demands: the implementation of sharia, the cessation of diplomatic relations with Israel, and “the return of our Sheikh and emir to his land.” In March 2000, terrorists associated with the Abu Sayyaf group kidnapped a number of tourists in the Philippines and threatened to behead them if Abdel Rahman and two other convicted terrorists were not freed. Authorities later recovered two decapitated bodies (four other hostages were never accounted for).

On September 21, 2000, only three weeks before al-Qaeda’s bombing of the U.S.S. Cole [killing 17 members of the U.S. Navy], al-Jazeera televised a “Convention to Support the Honorable Omar Abdel Rahman.” Front and center were Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri (then bin Laden’s deputy, now his successor as emir of al-Qaeda). They warned that unless Sheikh Abdel Rahman was freed, jihadist attacks against the United States would be stepped up. At the same event, Mohammed Abdel Rahman, an al-Qaeda operative who is one of the sheikh’s sons, exhorted the crowd to “avenge your Sheikh” and “go to the spilling of blood.”

Omar Abdel Rahman was physically incapable of doing anything that would be useful to a terrorist organization: He couldn’t build a bomb, hijack a plane, or carry out an assassination. The only thing he could do for a terrorist organization was lead it. His life is a testament to the centrality of sharia-supremacist ideology to modern jihadism and to the broader Islamist movement in which it thrives. His death reminds us why we must fight everything he represented.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

Connecting dots between two of the two biggest terror attacks on U.S. soil

rahman

National Review, by Andrew McCarthy, June 14, 2016:

According to Fox News, Omar Mateen, the jihadist who carried out the mass-murder attack at a gay nightclub in Florida this weekend, was a student of Marcus Robertson, an Orlando-based radical Muslim who once served as a bodyguard to Omar Abdel Rahman — the notorious “Blind Sheikh” whom I prosecuted for terrorism crimes in the early to mid 1990s.

Robertson, a former U.S. marine with a serious criminal record, is now 47. That means he was in his early twenties when the Blind Sheikh lived in the New York metropolitan area. It was a commonplace in those days for the Sheikh to travel with an entourage, including bodyguards from various groups (e.g., his fellow native Egyptians, Palestinians associated with Hamas, Sudanese Muslims who lived in New Jersey, and — often in Brooklyn, where he frequented the Farooq and Taqua mosques — African-American Muslims, most of them converts to Islam).

In the spring of 1993, members of the Blind Sheikh’s cell were plotting to follow up the February 26 World Trade Center bombing with simultaneous bombings of several New York City landmarks (including the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, the U.N.’s headquarters, and the FBI’s lower-Manhattan field office). The jihadists planning the landmarks attacks turned to a man named Clement Hampton-el for help obtaining detonators. In a conversation recorded by an FBI informant, Hampton-el explained that it had recently become harder for him to get detonators because his sources had recently been arrested by the FBI in Pennsylvania. He described these sources as members of a gang that robbed banks and post offices —activities ordinarily illegal under Islamic law but that, according to the Blind Sheikh, were permissible as long as a chunk of the proceeds went to support jihad. Before the FBI shut the gang down, Hampton-el said they had been able to supply “C-4s, M-16s, AKs, detonators, bulletproof vests — they had everything.”

In the recorded conversation, Hampton-el recounted being a longtime friend of the father-in-law of one of the arrested men. Because of that, he contributed money for the man’s defense. But to his great annoyance, Hampton-el learned that the arrested man had cooperated with the FBI and “talked on everybody.”

At our trial, Hampton-el testified in his own defense, implausibly claiming that he had “made up” the story about the gang. But when we cross-examined him, he admitted to being a longtime friend of a man named Suliman el-Hadi, who just happened to have a son-in-law named Marcus Robertson. In a remarkable coincidence, Robertson just happened to have been arrested by the FBI in Pennsylvania, to have pled guilty to a series of bank and post-office robberies, and to have gotten sentencing leniency because he cooperated with the government. Grudgingly, Hampton-el conceded that he just might know Marcus Robertson personally, might have had some meetings with him, and might even have seen him in the company of the Blind Sheikh at the Farooq mosque.

Small world. Well, Fox News reports that in 1991, Marcus Robertson joined with other Muslims who were former security guards in a robbery gang they dubbed “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.” According to a private investigator in Florida, the group committed armed robberies of more than ten banks, private homes, and post offices; shot three police officers; and attacked one cop after he was injured by a homemade pipe bomb. It is alleged that Robertson — Ali Baba — donated more than $300,000 of the robbery proceeds to mosques he attended. Fox says prosecutors also claim Robertson has committed murders in addition to using pipe bombs, C-4, and other explosives. Nevertheless, he has never been convicted of those things and was given extraordinary leniency in the robbery case, serving just four years in prison.

Physically, Robertson is a very capable man. He served in the Marine Corps from 1986 until 1990, when he was reportedly discharged as a corporal, having been trained in marksmanship, scuba diving, counterterrorism, parachuting, surveillance tactics, communications equipment, infantry patrolling, and finance. Fox could not verify Robertson’s claims to have served in the Joint Special Operations Command, an elite counterterrorism unit.

Reportedly, his military training and involvement with both crime and terrorists convinced federal intelligence agencies that he might be a useful covert operative. This reflects a seamy side of national security, particularly in the field of foreign intelligence: The sort of people who can credibly pass for violent jihadists in order to infiltrate terror cells will often be former violent jihadists. Or, worse, they will be unreformed violent jihadists who pretend to work against the terrorists but are actually still with them. In any event, our agencies have to rely on a lot of bad people in order to learn what other bad people are plotting against us. They must constantly guard against being gamed.

In Robertson’s case, it is reported that he agreed to work for the government, gathering intelligence both overseas and in the United States. According to Fox, however, he was expelled from the covert informant program in early 2007 after attacking his CIA handler in Africa.

By 2008, he surfaced in Orlando, and became known by his Muslim name, Abu Taubah. The Investigative Project on Terrorism reported in 2012 that Robertson was the imam at the al-Ihsaan mosque (formerly, the Islamic Center of Orlando). He also ran an online Muslim education enterprise, known for years as the “Fundamental Islamic Knowledge Seminary” (FIKS) — although the name was recently changed to the “Timbuktu Seminary.” Robertson’s seminary has apparently been a springboard for lecturing gigs at universities in the United States and overseas.

Omar Mateen, the terrorist who killed 49 people and wounded over 50 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando over the weekend, had enrolled in Robertson’s seminary. At least one other student of Robertson’s has been convicted (along with Robertson) in a case that had terrorism implications. Robertson’s lectures are said to include a staple of sharia: the condemnation of homosexuals — whom Robertson refers to as “devil worshipers.”

The government suspects — with abundant reason, it appears — that Robertson’s prominence in the mosque, the online seminary, and the teaching circuit have given him ample opportunity to radicalize young Muslim men: not only indoctrinating them in sharia-supremacist ideology but also possibly providing them with paramilitary training.

For example, Robertson is alleged to have instructed one of his Orlando students, Jonathan Paul Jimenez, to file false tax returns for the purpose of obtaining funds that would pay for travel to Mauritania for jihadist training. Perhaps I should say additional jihadist training. Prosecutors, Fox reports, produced intercepted conversations showing that Robertson had trained Jimenez “in killing, suicide bombing, and identifying and murdering United States military personnel.”

Of course, if the government’s evidence had been as compelling as the Fox report makes it sound, one would figure that Robertson and Jimenez would have been charged with terrorism crimes. But the statements outlined in the Fox report appear to involve Jimenez talking about Robertson, not Robertson himself volunteering anything incriminating. Robertson’s computers also raised alarms when agents searched them and found documents about terrorist ideology from the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, and military reports on psy-ops and interrogation. It is not illegal, however, to possess these items, notwithstanding their obvious usefulness to a trainer of terrorists.

In any event, it appears that Jimenez was charged only with false statements and conspiring to defraud the IRS. He was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.

Robertson was apparently charged with some kind of minor firearms offense in 2011 and pled guilty in January 2012. Two months later, the Justice Department charged him with the Jimenez tax-fraud conspiracy, for which he was found guilty in 2013. In neither case did the government charge him with terrorism crimes. Yet prosecutors tried to slide terrorism into the mix at sentencing. They urged that, in imposing sentence on Robertson for the gun and fraud counts, U.S. district judge Gregory Presnell should factor in that he had been involved in terrorism activities, “focused on training others to commit violent acts” overseas.

This is a too-cute-by-half strategy the government sometimes attempts: Get a dangerous defendant convicted on easy-to-prove, comparatively minor charges and then push the judge to give him a maximum sentence based on a “terrorism enhancement” — i.e., an allegation of terrorist activity of which the defendant has not been convicted. The strategy is legal because prosecutors are not technically asking that the defendant be sentenced on the uncharged terrorism crime; they seek a sentence at the top of the range prescribed for the minor crimes for which the defendant has been convicted. But there is no getting around that, were it not for the “unconvicted” terrorism conduct, the defendant would get a much lower sentence.

This rubs many judges (and probably a lot of Americans) the wrong way: Most of us believe that if prosecutors want to sentence someone for terrorism, they should indict and convict him for terrorism. That was plainly the feeling of Judge Presnell, who concluded that the Justice Department’s terrorism evidence against Robertson was weak. While not doubting the Justice Department’s insistence that Robertson is a bad guy, the judge rejected the ten-year terrorism enhancement and sentenced Robinson to time served (about four years) on June 26, 2015.

Judge Presnell and the prosecutors had every reason to believe that Robertson was a bad guy. Fox reports that while in custody:

Robertson was considered so dangerous, he was kept in shackles and assigned his own guards. Whenever he was transported to court, a seven-car caravan of armed federal marshals escorted him. He was initially moved into solitary confinement after prison authorities believed he was radicalizing up to 36 of his fellow prisoners.

Now, we know that Omar Mateen enrolled in Robertson’s online seminary. Is there more to the story than that? For now, we do not know. In investigating the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, the FBI will be chasing numerous leads. Some of these leads will center on the relationship between Mateen, an apparently trained terrorist, and Robertson, a former Blind Sheikh bodyguard whom the government has long suspected of training terrorists.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is as senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.