- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2007

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (AP) — An electronics store clerk credited with providing the tip that broke up a purported plot to kill soldiers at Fort Dix went public yesterday, saying he spent a day pondering his suspicions before going to authorities.

Brian Morgenstern said he was alarmed when he watched the video two men brought him to have transferred to a DVD, but he also worried about invading the customers’ privacy.

“I was considering whether or not this was really a threat, or something serious,” he told the Associated Press. “I came to the conclusion that that’s not my job or decision to make.”

After three weeks of being hailed as an anonymous hero by law enforcement and on newspaper editorial pages, he came forward with a series of interviews yesterday, the first on CNN’s “American Morning.”

Mr. Morgenstern, a clerk at a Circuit City store, described how two men brought him a videotape to transfer to DVD in January 2006.

He said he went home that night and told his family what he had seen: 10 men at a firing range with handguns, rifles and what he thought were fully automatic weapons. He said authorities have asked him not to divulge some details of the video, but authorities later said the men were chanting “God is Great” in Arabic.

Mr. Morgenstern did not know if he should breach the privacy of the customers, who seemed like ordinary guys. He wasn’t even paying full attention to the video until he saw things that were troubling.

The next day, he said, he talked to his managers at the Mount Laurel store, then called police, sparking a 15-month investigation that led to the May 7 arrests of six men accused of plotting to attack an Army installation that’s being used largely to train reservists bound for Iraq.

First, Mount Laurel police visited the store to see the video. They asked Mr. Morgenstern to make a copy, which was passed on to state Homeland Security investigators, then the FBI.

In the meantime, the 23-year-old, who has since become a sales manager in a different Circuit City store, had to treat the men like any other customers when they returned to pick up the DVD.

About a month after the men first came in, an FBI informant had infiltrated the purported plotters.

Authorities said they made the arrests just as the suspects were trying to buy fully automatic weapons in a deal facilitated by an FBI informant.

The suspects are all foreign-born men in their 20s who had spent many years living in Philadelphia’s southern New Jersey suburbs. Five are charged with conspiring to kill military personnel and could face life in prison if convicted. The sixth faces up to 10 years in prison if he is convicted of weapons charges.

J.P. Weis, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia office, called Mr. Morgenstern “that unsung hero … who saw a video and said, ‘You know, somebody needs to know about this.’ And that’s why we’re here today, thanks to the courage and heroism of that individual.”

But that’s not how Mr. Morgenstern sees his action: “I don’t feel like a hero,” he said. “I feel like I did the right thing, but I think the real heroes are the men and women overseas and the people in our law enforcement who handled the situation.”

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