Fear in New York City

New York City’s tabloids are having a field day today with the arrest of a Bronx martial arts instructor, Tarik Ibn Osman Shah, on charges of “providing material support” to al-Qaeda. The NY Post does not fail to emphasize that Osman Shah is the son of Lieutenant X, a key aide to slain Black Muslim leader Malcolm X, according to “police sources.” “It is particularly gratifying that someone using New York City as a base for terrorist support is now in custody,” said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Also arrested was Dr. Rafiq Sabir, a Columbia medical school graduate in Boca Raton, FL. Both men are US citizens.

The post notes ominously: “Shah told an FBI undercover agent posing as an al Qaeda recruiter that he wanted to get training in ‘chemical stuff’ and firearms at camps overseas, the feds said.” However, a less lurid account from Reuters notes that Shah and Sabir made their incriminating statements “during multiple meetings with a confidential source and an undercover FBI agent posing as an al Qaeda operative and recruiter.” So this whole case could be the result of another illegal FBI fishing expedition, in which all the nasty ideas actually originated from the government infiltrator. Of course we aren’t supposed to talk about this today, but an objective look at the evidence indicates that this was precisely the case in the 1993 terror attack on the World Trade Center, as we noted at the ten-year anniversary of the blast.

Meanwhile, Newsday is the only metro area daily to take a serious interest in the trial of Osama Awadallah, a Jordanian college student who was actually arrested in (somewhat tenuous) connection to the 9-11 attacks, but who’s case is going nowhere fast. Awadallah’s telephone number was apparently found on a slip of paper inside a car that Nawaf al-Hazmi abandoned at Dulles International Airport on Sept. 11. Al-Hazmi was one of the hijackers aboard American Airlines Flight 77, which slammed into the Pentagon. But Awadallah is only being charged with perjury for denying under oath that he knew al-Midhar. Awadallah charges he was physically abused by jail guards during his cross-country trip from San Diego (where he was busted) to New York, held incommunicado, deprived of proper Muslim food and not allowed to practice his religion while in federal custody. The cincher is that he was–illegally–handcuffed to a chair during the 2001 grand jury testimony in which he allegedly perjured himself. US District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin has warned she may dismiss all charges against Awadallah on the grounds that he was denied his rights during testimony.

New York’s media have gone into similar feeding frenzies in the past months over specious orange alerts, innocent teen-age girls arrested as would-be suicide bombers, vague rumors of imminent attacks on city landmarks, and high-profile trials of al-Qaeda suspects.