The 21st Century Phenomenon



Federal prosecutors in USA charged, throughout 2009, 54 defendants with terrorism-related charges, more than in any year since The 9/11, providing evidence of what experts call a rise in plots spurred by Internet recruitment, the spread of Al Qaeda overseas and ever-shifting tactics of terror chiefs, a review of major national security cases by the Associated Press, on Monday 01/18/2010, said.

Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University, called it “an extraordinary year across the board,” adding that the wide range of cases show Al Qaeda “is in it for the long haul and we need to be as well”.

The rate of terrorism charges accelerated in 09/2009, when authorities disrupted what they said was a burgeoning plot to detonate bombs aboard New York commuter trains. The quick pace of cases continued until the end of the year, with an attempted Christmas bombing aboard Flight-253, a Detroit-bound airliner.

One day alone was particularly heavy. On 09/24/2009 federal prosecutors announced charges in five separate terrorism cases in Illinois, New York, North Carolina and Texas. David Kris, the top terrorism official in the Obama administration’s Justice Department, marveled at the volume of terrorism cases when he spoke at a conference of lawyers in 11/2009. “The last several weeks or months have been kind of a crucible experience for us,” Mr. Kris said.

What truly constitutes a terrorism case can be a matter of legal and political debate. Counting major terrorism cases, the AP used a rigorous standard that produced a conservative count. The various charges that made the list include conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, conspiring to murder people abroad and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. The list also includes some cases that did not involve Islamic terrorists, such as the kidnapping of a U.S. citizen in Panama.

But the 54 defendants do not include, for example, those charged only with lying to agents in a terrorism investigation, or the Army psychiatrist Maj. Malik Hasan in the Fort Hood, Texas, military base shooting, who faces non-terrorism murder charges brought by military prosecutors instead of civilian charges. Nor do the 54 include the five Washington, D.C.-area youths charged in Pakistan (see – Sargodha Arrests). If all those cases were also added — and some commentators do count them — the total number of defendants would be 63.

As hectic as 2009 was, counterterrorism officials will only be busier this year as the administration prepares to bring some Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees to trial in the USA, which is a Controversial Decision, predicted Patrick Rowan, who was President George W. Bush’s top Justice Department counterterrorism official and now works at the private law firm McGuire Woods. 

“It is going to be an extremely busy and challenging year because of these Gitmo [Guantanamo] cases coming in that are going to place tremendous stress on the prosecutors, the judicial system, and the FBI,” Mr. Rowan said. 

* Many of the suspects charged with terror in 2009 were self proclaimed Jihadist with no ties to any cell or networks, most of the other suspects were connected to either Lashkar-e-Toiba in Pakistan (see – The-Network) or Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. Al Qaeda as such was, probably, just the source of aspirations. 
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