The FBI has disrupted an apparent terror plot aimed at Fort Dix, N.J. Monday night, agents arrested six Muslim men in connection with a plan enter the base and "kill as many soldiers as they could." Federal authorities indicate that the men scouted a number of sites in the mid-Atlantic region before settling on Fort Dix as a target.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorneys Office told WNBC-TV in New York that the six men had been plotting the attack for more than a year. Authorities got wind of the plan when the group tried to have a training videotape converted to a DVD at a Cherry Hill, N.J., store. The store owner was alarmed by what he saw on the tape and alerted authorities. Federal officials also managed to insert a "cooperating witness" into the alleged terror cell, to serve as a go-between in their efforts to buy assault weapons. The six suspects were arrested after the witness delivered dummy weapons to the suspects on Monday night.
More coverage from Pajamas Media and WPVI-TV in Philadelphia. Various media accounts indicate that the terror cell decided on Fort Dix because one of their family members owned a pizza parlor near the base. One of the alleged conspirators reportedly boasted that he knew the base "like the back of his hand."
KYW-TV in Philly reports that federal authorities will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. EDT, to discuss the case and the arrests. KYW was also among the first to name the terror suspects:
- Dritan, Shain and Eljvir Duka, three brothers from former Yugoslavia who came to the country illegally and were living in Cherry Hill.
- Agron Abdullahu, a Yugoslavian native who was living legally in Williamstown.- Serdar Tatar, a Turkey native who was arrested in the 2100 block of Tremont Street in Philadelphia
- Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, a Jordan National living in Pennsauken who was working as a cab driver. He was taken into custody while in his cab at the Philadelphia International Airport.
Readers will note that the "M" word was never used in any of these MSM accounts of the alleged plot and the suspects, although WNBC (to its credit) did identify the men as Islamic radicals.
Additionally, a few observations, based on what we know so far:
--In some respects, the plot was amateurish. Taking your jihadist training/recruitment video to a local photo shop for reproduction is nothing short of stupid. Assuming that the store owner would pay no attention to footage of automatic weapons training and other, terrorist-related images was even dumber. Still, that alert photo shop owner in Cherry Hill deserves tremendous credit; without his tip, the terror cell--and its plans--might have gone undetected.
--The FBI is describing this plot is deadly serious, and I concur, for a couple of reasons. First, their detailed knowledge of Fort Dix was a clear asset for the alleged terrorists. From the pizzeria's regular deliveries on the post, they knew where soldiers congregate, and probably had some idea of base security procedures as well.
--The "pizza connection" illustrates something that has long concerned many of us who have worked on base-level threat working groups and anti-terrorism teams. While semi-trailers and other large vehicles entering a base are thoroughly inspected, delivery drivers from pizza parlors and other fast-food joints are often waved through the gate, with nary a glance. After all, the military police or civilian guards see the same guys and gals, day in and day out. They've probably ordered a meal or two from the same establishments. No need to worry about the pizza guy--we know them.
Obviously, the disrupted plot at Fort Dix destroys that theory, once and for all. I'm guessing that fast food deliveries have been put on hold at the New Jersey base, but there needs to be a DoD-wide ban, or some serious, permanent restrictions. If the delivery person doesn't have a military or dependent ID card , they can't enter the base. And, since virtually everyone on the post has a vehicle, there's really no reason that someone can't make a five-minute trip to pick-up the food. There should be similar restrictions on taxi and public bus traffic on military installations. If a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine needs to a lift, let them catch a bus or cab outside the front gate. Many bases already have shuttle services that can transport military members or dependents around the post.
--Finally, the aborted plot seems aimed at one of the key security "weaknesses" found on many military installations. While bases are often depicted as armed camps in books or on TV, in reality, many installations maintain only "routine" arrangements inside the perimeter, with most security assets concentrated around "high value" assets, such as the flight line at an Air Force base. The conspirators at Fort Dix apparently planned to blow through the main gate at Fort Dix (against outgunned MPs and civilian security guards), then concentrate their attacks in lightly-defended areas where soldiers gather (dormitories, BX, bowling alley, base club, etc). It's a simple plan, but the terrorists could have inflicted significant damage before security teams responded. The obvious solution is more security, closer to potential entry points and "soft" targets. But implementing that fix will require more manpower--and money. One reason for the increase in civilian security guards at DoD installations is the GWOT, which has meant more deployments for military police and security forces units.