- The Washington Times - Monday, September 5, 2005

Even with the chaos on the Gulf Coast, the war on terror continues. The Justice Department announced Wednesday the indictment of four men suspected of planning to attack military and Israeli government targets in Southern California. Three of the four suspects are Americans, raising the harrowing specter of “homegrown” terrorism.

The suspected ringleader of the plot, Kevin James, was an inmate in a California prison, where in the late 1990s he converted to Islam. He founded a radicalized group, Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, with which he recruited other inmates, two of whom are also suspects in the case. The other suspect is a Pakistani man, though his involvement in the case was not immediately clear.

As Frank J. Gaffney Jr. wrote about the case last month in Frontpagemag.com, “The frightening thing is that the would-be assailants were not terrorist adherents to the political ideology of Islamofascism when they went to jail. They became Islamists while in prison — thanks to the sort of recruitment opportunities afforded clerics usually selected by Saudi-backed Muslim-American organizations.” In fact, as Mr. Gaffney points out, U.S. prisons are a gold mine for Muslim chaplains: Roughly 80 percent of prisoners who “find faith” while in prison convert to Islam. A Saudi spokesman told the Wall Street Journal in 2003 that the “Saudi government pays for prison chaplains, along with many other American Muslims, to travel to Saudi Arabia for worship and study.”

Muslim-American organizations, like the Islamic Society of North America, refer Muslim clerics to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, according to J. Michael Waller, the Annenberg Professor of International Communications at the Institute of World Politics, who testified before a congressional committee in 2003. Washington is keenly aware of the coordination between extremist elements and U.S. prisons. Two well-known examples are Richard Reid (the so-called “Shoe Bomber”) and Jose Padilla (a dirty-bomb suspect). Both converted to radical Islam while in prison, though Reid did so in a British prison.

It’s troubling then that the Southern California plot was foiled by mere luck. Authorities became aware only when two of the conspirators, Levar Washington and Gregory Patterson, were arrested in July for a string of gas station robberies. Agents discovered Islamist literature, bulletproof vests and a list of potential targets during a search of their homes.

The indictment proves that the case for stemming “homegrown” terrorism deserves far more attention — and we mean from the state governments as well as Washington.

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