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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Terror Plot In Los Angeles- Two Plead Guilty

The case also raised concerns about whether the country's prisons could serve as recruiting centers for Islamic extremists.

Because national attention was focused on Hurricane Katrina and its devastating affects on New Orleans, news of this foiled terror plot, that had already gone from planning to operations, was not given the attention that other less deadly plots have been given, even though the federal indictment of four defendants was unsealed and announced by top Justice Department officials in Los Angeles and Washington.

Dubbed as the JIS ( Jam'iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh) plot was a terrorist plot to attack more than a dozen military and Jewish sites in the Los Angeles area on September 11, 2005, and it was devised inside a cell at the New Folsom State Prison, a maximum-security prison outside Sacramento, Calif.

Flashback to 2005:

Law enforcement officials told ABC News that Peter Martinez, a former Oakland street gang member, and his cellmate Kevin James organized the plot and recruited as many as 13 other inmates in a jihad against the United States. The two inmates have since been placed in special confinement, according to officials.

An ABC news report at the time made these point:

"Al Qaeda recruits in prisons. They really do," said Edward Caden, a retired prison administrator in California. "Prisons are a prime, prime target for terrorist recruiting. It is a ripe population."

The plot, which called for dozens of casualties as part of a holy war against the United States, was foiled after Levar Washington, a former inmate at the Folsom Prison, and his accomplice were arrested for a string of gas station robberies.
The third member was Gregory Patterson whom Washington recruited after Washington's release in 2004, and who helped in a number of gas station robberies to fund the group's planned attacks.

The plot itself was uncovered during the investigation of that gas station robbery in 2005, where the Torrance police obtained a search warrant for their South Los Angeles apartment.

Which brings us back to 2007:

The officers found documents including a lengthy manifesto and a list of potential targets in the L.A. area. Days later, in a search of James' prison cell, authorities found a draft of a statement that was to be released to the media after the group's first fatal attack.

"This incident is the first in a series of incidents to come in a plight to defend and propagate traditional Islam in its purity," the statement read. It warned "sincere Muslims" to avoid potential targets, including "those Jewish and non-Jewish supporters of an Israeli state."

According to the FBI, Washington was released in late 2004 and had started plans for attacks on synagogues and a military recruiting center in Santa Monica, Calif. and in a law enforcement report obtained by ABC, his intent was to "kill everyone at the target."

Which brings us to the guilty pleas:

Kevin Lamar James and Levar Haney Washington, members of the homegrown radical Islamic organization dubbed JIS, entered guilty pleas in front of U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney in federal court in Santa Ana.

They pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to conspiring to wage war against the United States.

Prosecutors released documents detailing the groups operations which includes a handwritten document titled "Modes of Attack," includes a list of National Guard facilities, Army recruiting centers and something referred to as the "camp site of Zion."

Another document called "Blueprint 2005," sets out eight tasks to be accomplished in furtherance of the plot. "We will need bombs that can be activated from a distance," one entry reads. "Acquire two weapons (pistols) with silencers," reads another.

The LA Times provides PDF files of many of the documents.

A 53 page PDF file : The name chosen for this group: Jam'iyyah. Translation: Assembly, Organization, Society or Institution

A 2 page PDF file titled "Blue Print 2005", which outlines 8 objectives, from recruitment to obtaining weapons.

A 49 page PDF file : Protocol: Quran quotations, required Arabic reading, new member orientation

A 2 page PDF file : Notoriety: The following letter will be left behind.

An 18 page PDF file of the plea agreement for Levar Washington.

A 17 page PDF file
of the plea agreement with Kevin James.

After the Torrance police uncovered this plot, the investigation took on a completely new momentum, involving multiple local and federal agencies, including the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Thomas P. O'Brien, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, said the group was in the advanced stages of planning when the plot began to unravel.

O'Brien's statement:

"At the time of their arrest, it appeared they were on the verge of staging an attack here in Los Angeles."

"An untold number of lives may have been saved when this terrorist cell was dismantled."

LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Downing, who oversaw his department's role in the investigation, offered this blunt assessment:

"This cell was closer to going operational at the time than anyone since 9/11."

More information can be found at a follow up LA Times piece here.

Which bring up the question about our prisons being used for recruitment and plotting and does this in any way, influence the very real question of whether we are equipped to deal with terrorists in our prison systems within the US?