Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jordanian tourist who overstayed his visa involved in a terror plot


The Justice Department announced that aspiring terrorist Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was sentenced to 24 years in prison for trying to blow up a Dallas skyscraper in 2009. He pleaded guilty on May 26, 2010, to one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

Smadi, who was 19 years old at the time, came to the attention of the FBI through his writings on a radical Islamic website. Special Agent Tom Petrowski, who oversaw the investigation out of the FBI’s Dallas office, said that Smadi “was on a very extreme website, where people were saying a lot of unspeakable things, endorsing and celebrating acts of violence against U.S. citizens and our allies.” Petrowski added, “What made Smadi’s postings stand out from the other rhetoric was that he was saying, ‘I want to act.’ That’s what really got our attention. Smadi wanted to imitate 9/11 and bring down a skyscraper and kill thousands of people. And he was already in the country. He said he just needed the tools—essentially he was online asking for someone to help him build a bomb.”

Smadi espoused loyalty and shared radical beliefs of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. He entered the U.S. on a tourist visa in 2007. Smadi overstayed his visa. “Based on that expired visa, law enforcement could have immediately arrested and deported him,” Petrowski said, “and that would have been the easiest thing to do.”

Once Smadi advocated violence on an Islamic website, ICE could have deported him, barring his re-entry to the U.S. in perpetuity and enrolling his biometric data in appropriate databases. The loose-goose immigration enforcement allowed Smadi to be admitted into the country. He didn’t meet the requirements for a tourist visa, because he had a criminal record in Jordan. This case also re-confirmed the resounding failure of e-Verify, since Smadi was able to get a job and stay in the U.S. long after his visa had expired.

Here are some fun facts about terrorism in relation to non-enforcement of our immigration laws:
  • Four of the 9/11 terrorists (Zacarias Moussaoui, Satam al Suqami, Nawaf al Hamzi, and Hani Hanjour) had overstayed their visas at the time of the attack. A review of their visa applications by experts deemed that none of them should have received a visa to begin with;
  • Two conspirators in the first World Trade Center attack (Mohammed Salameh and Eyad Ismoil), were in the U.S. illegally, having overstayed their visas;
  • New York subway bomb plot terrorist Lafi Khalil was in the U.S. on an expired visa;
  • Fadil Abdelghani, who took part in the plot to bomb New York landmarks, had overstayed a tourist visa;
  • The murderer of two CIA employees in 1993, Mir Aimal Kansi, overstayed a business visa;
When a terrorist is admitted into the U.S. on a tourist visa, there is a significant likelihood he will overstay his welcome – simply because of the time involved in organizing and preparing for any significant terrorist attack. That is yet another important reason for getting a handle on millions of overstays currently in our country.

In this case, instead of having Smadi deported, the FBI set up a sting, using Arabic-speaking agents who began to talk with Smadi, first online and later in person. FBI Agents led Smadi to believe that “he had found an al Qaeda sleeper cell in the U.S. and that he was now planning the next 9/11 attack,” Petrowski said. FBI conducted 10 months of around-the-clock surveillance, up to the point when they supplied Smadi with the truck that he believed to contain a weapon of mass destruction, which in reality was a fake bomb built by the FBI. It was reportedly fashioned to appear similar to the one used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

The Dallas case comes in the wake of several recent high-profile terrorism arrests in Denver and New York and in a strikingly similar scheme in Illinois, involving undercover agents providing an extremist with a fake bomb.

According to the case files, Smadi drove the truck containing what he believed to be an explosive device to Fountain Place, a 60-story office building located at 1445 Ross Avenue in Dallas, and parked it in the public parking garage. After walking out of the garage, Smadi got in a car with an undercover FBI Agent and drove away. Smadi then dialed a cell phone number that he was told would remotely detonate the bomb. At that point, he was arrested.

One big takeaway from this case,” Petrowski said, “is the question of how many other potential violent extremists are out there, being exposed to terrorist ideologies online and contemplating an attack.”

In Jordan, Smadi's father told Agence France-Presse, that his son was innocent and the accusations against him were "fabricated." Maher Hussein Smadi said, "We as a family never believed in terrorism and we never believed in violence." He added: "The FBI fabricated the entire thing to embarrass Obama because of his good relations with Muslims." Smadi added that his other son, 18 year old Hussein Smadi, is in California and had also been arrested. The younger Smadi brother was reportedly charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance.

This case involved a lot of work by many people throughout the FBI and our partner agencies,” Petrowski said. The case involved undercover agents, surveillance teams, and behavioral analysts, bomb experts, the multi-agency Joint Terrorism Task Force, attorneys in the U.S. Department of Justice, and members of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division in Washington, D.C.

Much effort and many resources, from not only the FBI but other law enforcement agencies, were expended in investigating, tracking and ultimately arresting Hosam Maher Husein Smadi while at all times ensuring the public’s safety,” said Special Agent In Charge Robert E. Casey Jr.

After footing the bill for the building of a fake bomb, 10 months of surveillance and the enormous costs of investigating and prosecuting this case, American taxpayers will now have the privilege of paying for Smadi’s room and board for 24 years to come. A timely deportation and a one way ticket to Jordan would have made a lot more sense, fiscally and legally speaking.

Man Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison for Attempting to Use a Weapon of Mass Destruction to Bomb Skyscraper in Downtown Dallas

Terror Plot Foiled: Inside the Smadi Case

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