Last week the Senate approved a 60-day extension of the Patriot Act as part of the 2010 defense appropriations bill. As Heritage scholar James Carafano writes in The Washington Examiner, it is far past time for Congress to grant counterterrorism law enforcement officials the proven tools they need to protect out country:
Arrested in 2006, Ehsanul Islam Sadequee and Syed Haris Ahmed were recently sentenced on a slew of terrorism-related charges. Theirs is a textbook case of domestic radicalization. They spent hours online chatting and watching videos produced by terrorist groups.
Then they started to mimic their “heroes.” In 2004, they began practicing paramilitary techniques, training with paintball guns. Then the pair started reaching out to others interested in Islamist-inspired violence.
On the Internet, they hooked up with a group in Canada and took a bus there to spend a week with their new friends. One of the Canadians was later arrested as part of the “Toronto 18,” a cell that planned to bomb the parliament building in Ottawa.
In 2005, Ahmed went to Pakistan where he met with a known Taliban operative. Sadequee trekked to Bangladesh and joined a terrorist group called al Qaeda in Northern Europe. Later he was arrested in Sarajevo with a cache of weapons, including, according to the FBI, “over 20 pounds of plastic explosives, a suicide belt with detonator, a firearm with a silencer.”
The tale of Northern Virginia’s five terrorism tourists picked up in Pakistan was strikingly familiar. They, too, had spent a lot of time online scrolling through Facebook, scanning YouTube and trying to contact extremist groups on the Internet. They also ended up in Pakistan, caught in the act of trying to link up with a recruiter who had ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda.
There was, however, a big difference in the two cases. Sadequee and Ahmed had been under investigation for some time. At trial, the government presented a bucketload of evidence detailing Sadequee and Ahmed’s big adventure from recruiting on extremist Web forums to casing potential targets in Washington, D.C.
They were not the only ones caught in the act. Last month, prosecutors indicted eight men on charges of recruiting Somali immigrants in the United States to join al Shabaab, a terrorist group based in Africa with links to al Qaeda.
In contrast, law enforcement knew nothing about the five young men from Virginia until just after Thanksgiving, when they were reported missing.
Stopping homegrown radicals before they start killing is always the better option.