Monday, January 08, 2007

Naïve Stooge or Homegrown Terrorist? You Decide.

Update: Shahawar Matin Siraj has been sentenced to 30 years. I guess that means the judge voted against “naïve stooge”.

The would-be New York subway bomber is due to be sentenced today. According to this AP story:

Shahawar Matin Siraj NEW YORK — Shahawar Matin Siraj was either a naïve stooge lured into a phony bomb plot or a homegrown terrorist determined to inflict misery on New Yorkers as revenge for wartime abuses of Iraqis, according to court papers filed in advance of his sentencing.

On Monday, the man convicted on conspiracy charges in a scheme to blow up one of the city’s busiest subway stations could get more than 30 years in prison during sentencing in federal court.

Defense attorneys have sought to convince a judge that their client’s sentence should not exceed 10 years since the attack never came close to being carried out.

Prosecutors countered that the Pakistani immigrant deserves at least 30 years — and possibly life — behind bars as the “driving force” behind a “workable terrorist plot” to set off explosives at the subway station of Herald Square, in a shopping area that includes Macy’s flagship department store.

So if his plot succeeded, he’d deserve the thirty years. But, since it never came to fruition, he should be let off lightly.

That means that if we want terrorist conspirators to be put away for a long time, we have to let them get really, really close to killing lots of Americans.

The defendant was convicted in May of last year, thanks to a series of wiretap recordings. Siraj, of course, maintained that the NYPD’s confidential informant was the driving force behind the plot, and that he himself would never have considered such dastardly acts if it hadn’t been for the prodding of the police informant.

New York Magazine has a detailed account of the entire affair. The picture of the young innocent led astray by a government informant is at odds with some of his recorded words:
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“I want at least 1,000 to 2,000 to die in one day,” Siraj said at one point.


As July approached, Siraj talked about his “willingness to do jihad.” “I’m going to f*** this country very bad,” he said.

But the most chilling passage from the piece is this one:

Global events, [New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly] argues, give people like Elshafay and Siraj permission to think the way they think. “We have an overarching concern about the lone wolf, the unaffiliated terrorist,” he says. “That’s why this case is so important to me.”

This is the wave of the future. The name of the “homegrown terrorist” won’t be found on the hard drive of a laptop captured in Afghanistan. Echelon won’t be likely to pull it out of a data stream relayed between satellites. Breaking up an al-Qaeda cell in Pakistan won’t expose him.

The local cops on the beat in our cities are the front-line troops in this theater of the war. And don’t forget: in order to do their jobs effectively, and prevent the next Siraj from carrying out his plans, they’ll have to “profile” people.

Heaven forbid!

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A few more nuggets from the AP account — Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, take note! Here are some effective strategies that can be used in your defense should the U.S. Marines ever find your cave. Of course, you just might have to put some shoe polish in your beards and practice saying “dude” to your interrogators…

Siraj, a 21-year-old high school dropout at the time of his arrest, “is not a dangerous psychopath, but more of a confused and misguided youngster,” the defense team argued in its papers.


According to the recent defense filings, he has since expressed his regret.

“I feel really, really bad and apologize to everybody,” he told a psychologist. “I was just foolish, just angry.”

OK, that’s it: he’s suffered enough. He’s rehabilitated. We’ll let him go.


Evan said...

For better or worse, it is a longstanding principle in American law that unsuccessful crimes are punished significantly less harshly than successful ones.

Always On Watch said...

a confused and misguided youngster

Quite typical in defense cases.

Excuse me, but he was over 18 and, therefore, an adult in the eyes of the law.

Voltaire said...

I hate to say this, but given the direction in which things are going, it won't be long until groups of "misguided citizens" are going to start dishing out summary justice on individuals such as Siraj.

If i was in the shoes of the new leadership I would not back Conservatism against the wall as they are promising to do now. There are few things that provoke desperate rage more than being a cornered rat.

This is why I would make an example of someone like this. At least *show* you want your country to survive.

MathewK said...

"That means that if we want terrorist conspirators to be put away for a long time, we have to let them get really, really close to killing lots of Americans."

In these times of war, it might be better to err on the side of caution, since in the case of the suicide bomber, they are no longer around to be punished after the event,make an example of the fellow.