The FBI concluded two sting operations in the last two days that culminated with the arrests of a pair of terrorism suspects who believed they would be blowing up buildings in Dallas and Springfield, Ill.
Although not connected, officials say the FBI and Justice Department had to coordinate the timing of the two cases so that arrests would not cause suspects to get cold feet with their intention to conduct their operations.
Today, shortly after noon in Dallas, FBI agents swooped in on Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, who allegedly placed what he believed to be explosives in a car bomb near Fountain Place in downtown Dallas. Smadi, 19, a resident of Italy, Texas, is a citizen of Jordan and was in the U.S. illegally.
FBI agents became aware of Smadi on Internet chat rooms. According to an FBI affidavit filed by Thomas Petrokowski, head of a counterterrorism squad in the FBI's Dallas field office, "Smadi stood out, based on his vehement intention to actually conduct terror attacks in the United States."
Just 24 hours earlier, FBI agents in Springfield, Ill., arrested and charged Michael Finton with attempted murder, after he planted what he thought was a one-ton bomb outside Springfield's federal courthouse. Finton, aka Talib Islam, drove a van that he believed was carrying nearly a ton of explosives and parked it in front of the courthouse. Then, the FBI says, Finton "got out of the van," according to court documents and jumped into another car and dialed a cell phone to remotely detonate the bomb.
Finton's arrest was a sting operation, the explosives were fake. Finton was arrested and has been appointed a lawyer from the federal defenders office in Springfield. In Washington Thursday, David Kris, the assistant attorney general for the National Security Divsion, said of Finton's case, "Fortunately, a coordinated undercover law enforcement effort was able to thwart his efforts and ensure no one was harmed,"
On chat rooms and jihadist Internet forums, Smadi consistently stated his commitment to attacks and violent jihad. According to the affidavit, after Smadi repeated these comments, an FBI undercover employee made contact with the young Jordanian and had about 10 communications with him. "During those interactions, Smadi made clear his intention to serve as a solider for [Osama] bin Laden and [al Qaeda], and to conduct violent jihad," according to the FBI affidavit.
FBI counterterrorism agents determined that Smadi was a legitimate threat and began to establish a sting operation to encounter him. The FBI used a separate undercover employee to pose as a senior member of an al Qaeda "sleeper" cell. In a statement, the FBI special agent in charge of the Dallas Field Office, Robert Casey, said, "Smadi made a decision to act to commit a significant conspicuous act of violence under his banner of 'self Jihad.'"
In March 2009, the FBI undercover employee posing as the senior member of the sleeper cell spoke with Smadi. In a March 19, 2009, communication, according to the FBI affidavit, Smadi said, "I truly say it is my dream to be among God's soldiers, first for the support of Islam and my beloved Sheik Usama. I don't know what is in me but I love him as I love my father."