After months of investigation, the FBI arrested four California men accused of a terror plot. The arrest came just day before the men were allegedly going to board a plane to Afghanistan.
The arrests are raising serious questions on what methods the federal government uses to search for domestic terrorists in communities of color.
The defendants, including a man who served in the U.S. Air Force, were arrested for plotting to bomb military bases and government facilities, and for planning to engage in “violent jihad,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in a release.
A federal complaint unsealed Monday says 34-year-old Sohiel Omar Kabir of Pomona introduced two of the other men to the radical Islamist doctrine of Anwar al-Awlaki, a deceased al-Qaida leader. Kabir served in the Air Force from 2000 to 2001.
The other two — 23-year-old Ralph Deleon and 21-year-old Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales— converted to Islam in 2010 and began engaging with Kabir and others online in discussions about jihad, including posting radical content to Facebook and expressing extremist views in comments. They later recruited 21-year-old Arifeen David Gojali.
Among those arrested was 21-year-old Miguel Alejandro Santana who was born in Mexico. Santana lived with his parents who are devout Catholics, the L.A. Times reported Tuesday.
“Though we know little about the case at this point, early local news reports suggest that it resembles many other federal and local domestic anti-terrorism investigations: the plot may never have developed without the involvement of a paid government informant,” said Seth Freed Wessler, Colorlines.com’s investigative reporter.
“As FBI Special Agent David Bowdich said, ‘There was no way they were going to get on that plane.’ The comment suggests that the plot may always have been in the FBI’s control. If that’s the case and this case turns out to be like similar ones in which paid informants instigated and facilitated terrorism plots that the government concocted, it raises serious questions about the federal government’s search for domestic terrorists in communities of color,” Wessler went on to say.
The suspects were detained inside the informant’s Honda Civic, according to a witness interviewed by KTLA.
The FBI informant, who has worked as a confidential source for four-and-a-half years, had received a total of $250,000 in payments through October. The source was previously convicted of trafficking in pseudoephedrine, according to a footnote in the criminal complaint.
The four men arrested are facing a maximum of fifteen years in federal prison.