Lone Wolf Terrorist Targets Pentagon and Capitol in Jihad Against U.S.
By Ellen Cannon
President Obama and then Director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, warned the nation in August, 2011, that the most serious source of terrorism against the U.S. are ‘lone wolf terrorists.” Today the FBI charged another lone wolf terrorist, Rezwan Ferdaus, from Ashland Massachusetts with plotting to bomb both the Pentagon and the Capitol with unmanned drones packed with explosives. Mr. Ferdaus is a 26 year old Northeastern University graduate with a degree in physics. He is accused of trying to rig cell phones to blow up improvised explosive devices to maim or kill U.S. soldiers serving overseas. He was arrested in Framingham, Massachusetts after taking delivery of what he thought were C-4 explosives, grenades and AK-47 assault rifles. According to the FBI he began the terrorist plot early in 2010.
According to the published FBI affidavit, (9/28/11) Mr. Ferdaus began planning to commit violent “jihad” against the United States which he considers an enemy of Allah. According to Special Agent Gary Cacace, the primary objective of Mr Ferdaus was to terrorize the United States, decapitate its military center and kill as many ‘kafirs”, i.e., nonbelievers, as possible.
Ferdaus is accused of extensive planning with the intent of executing an attack on the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol Building using large remote controlled aircraft filled with C-4 plastic explosives. Remote controlled aircraft, according to the affidavit, are capable of carrying a variety of payloads including a lethal payload of explosives. They can use a wide range of take- off and landing environments and fly different flight patterns than commercial airlines, thus reducing detection. In addition, the investigation has revealed that Ferdaus designed, built and supplied more than 7 mobile phones, each of which he had modified to act as an electrical switch for an improvised explosive device (“IED”) to FBI undercover employees who Mr. Ferdaus believed were members of and recruiters for, al Qaeda, to purportedly be used to kill American soldiers stationed overseas.
In April 2011, Mr. Ferdaus is said to have expanded his plan to include an attack of the U.S. Capital Building. In May and June 2011, according to the FBI affidavit he delivered two thumb drives to undercover agents which contained detailed attack plans with step by step instructions as to how Ferdaus planned to attack the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol using three remote controlled aircraft and 6 people, including himself whom he described as an “amir” i.e., an Arabic term meaning leader.
In May 2011, Ferdaus went to Washington D.C., conducted surveillance and took photographs of his targets and identified and photographed sites at the East Potomac Park from which to launch his airplanes filled with explosives.
Between May 2011 and September 2011 Mr. Ferdaus researched, ordered, and acquired, with the assistance of undercover agents, necessary parts for his attack. Among his purchases were one remote controlled aircraft (F-86 Sabre), 25 pounds of C-4 explosives, 6 fully automatic Ak-47 assault machineguns, and grenades.
According to the affidavit, Mr. Ferdaus created a false identity as Dave Winfield to order the explosive equipment. He created a cover story explaining why he was seeking to buy this plane. He told a Florida distributor that he was purchasing the plane for his son, although he was unmarried and had no children. He then rented a storage facility in Framingham, Massachusetts to build the detonation devices.
Amir Fedeaus was described as motivated to perform terrorism based on viewing jihadi websites and videos about “how evil” America is and that jihad is the solution. His aim was to change the world using the skills Allah has given him to strike the infidels. He told the FBI that he planned to terrorize the United States by attacking D.C. and by so doing he aimed at “decapitating” the U.S. government’s military center and to severely disrupt the head and heart of the snake. He also told the FBI that he hoped to gun down politicians at the Capitol Building. He told undercover agents “I just can’t stop- there is no other choice for me.”…I need to terrify and eliminate all enemies of Allah. This is, this is what we have to do. This is the righteous way to terrorize enemies of Allah.”
According to the government affidavit, FBI agents utilized, among other things, a cooperating witness who met with and engaged in consensually recorded conversations with Mr. Ferdaus beginning in January 2011. Beginning in March, 2011 two FBI undercover law enforcement agents also met with Mr. Ferdaus and engaged in consensually recorded conversations. The FBI also conducted surveillance and obtained Ferdaus’ phone and email records which documented his efforts to procure components for his attack.
On January 20, 2011, the cooperating witness met with Ferdaus and at this recorded meeting Ferdaus also said he was considering attacking a subway station, the Capitol Building, and a military base in Colorado in addition to the Pentagon. It was at this point that Ferdaus said that “it would be nice to …gun down some politicians.”
The government affidavit details how explosive material was to be ordered, the detailed plan to build the explosive devises, and his knowledge of trajectories to make the “drone like” planes explode.
This case underscores both the danger and difficulty of “lone wolf terrorists”. Like other terrorists, they share an expressed aim of harming, maiming, and killing persons, destroying property, and creating psychological malaise and fear among a population. But unlike members of a terrorist group, they operate alone making it difficult to get the types of evidence that law enforcement obtains when investigating terrorist activities in a group setting. It consequently becomes essential to engage in undercover efforts to thwart the efforts of the lone-wolf terrorist before anyone is harmed.
The case in many ways resembles the 2009” lone wolf” incident in Illinois, attempted by Michael Finton. Finton, 29, a resident of Decatur, Illinois, was known as Talib Islam. He attempted to blow up the Paul Findley Federal Building and Courthouse in Springfield, Illinois, the state capitol. Mr. Finton was arrested in Springfield, Illinois and charged with attempted murder of federal officers or employees and trying to use a weapon of mass destruction. Charges for the case carry a life time sentence.
According to David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for national Security, “fortunately a co-ordinated effort was able to thwart his efforts and ensure no one was harmed.”
Michael Finton was arrested when he used a cellphone to detonate the bomb he believed was inside a van he had just parked outside the federal building.
According to the State Journal Register Newspaper, Finton was a part- time cook who converted to Islam while in prison. He became obsessed with the terrorist activities of an American, John Walker Lindh, who was an ally of the Taliban. According to the State Journal Register, this caught the attention of law enforcement authorities.
After Finton returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia in 2008, he told an individual who was a law enforcement official that he wanted to fight against Israelis in Gaza.
According to reports in Reuters, in early 2009, “it appeared that Finton was on the verge of taking action, so it was decided to proactively provide him with an action that was controlled by law enforcement agents rather than merely hoping to out and stop him,” according to a government affidavit.
Like Federaus, Michael Finton was introduced to an undercover FBI agent who began working with him to plot an attack but was repeatedly told he could walk away at any time, according to the Justice Department. His activities were monitored by the FBI agents and confidential sources up to the time of his arrest.
Finton drove a vehicle containing inactive explosives to the Paul Findley Federal Building and Courthouse in Springfield and attempted to detonate them on September 23, 2009.
President Obama’s warning regarding lone wolf terrorism is accurate: “The biggest concern we have right now is not the launching of a major terrorist operation, although the risk is always there. The risk that we’re especially concerned over right now is the “lone wolf” terrorist, somebody with a single weapon being able to carry out wide scale massacres of the sort we saw in Norway recently. You know, when you’ve got one person who is deranged by a hateful ideology, they can do a lot of damage, and it’s a lot harder to trace those lone wolf operators.” (www.dailyherald.com8/17/11, interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN)