|08-16-2006, 02:33 PM||#1|
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: DIA Tunnels
Cell phone circus?
What the heck is going on?
Aug. 15, 2006, 11:41PM
Cell phone allegations seem to be unraveling
Charges dropped in Ohio, one day after FBI sees no terror evidence in Michigan case
By RICHARD B. SCHMITT
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — Early this year, federal authorities alerted police departments around the U.S. of the threat posed by people making bulk purchases of prepaid cell phones.
With a burgeoning underground market for the phones, authorities feared they could be used to bankroll terrorists — or as detonators to trigger a series of explosive attacks.
So when five men — three from the Dallas area — were stopped last week in Michigan and Ohio in separate incidents and found to be carrying large numbers of the phones, local authorities decided to do their part in fighting the war on terror. The men were arrested and charged under state law with terrorism-related offenses that left them facing up to 20 years in prison.
But now the local cases against the men appear to be unraveling almost as quickly as they were stitched together.
FBI backs off
The FBI has taken the unusual step of declaring publicly that it was unaware of any evidence linking the men to terrorists. On Tuesday, the prosecutor in the Ohio case dismissed the terror-related charges acknowledging that he does not have the evidence to make them stand up in court.
And defense lawyers in the Michigan case are going into court today to have the charges against their clients thrown out as well.
The arrests have raised questions about the role of state and local authorities when it comes to prosecuting terrorists — a function that has been the exclusive province of the federal government since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Michigan and Ohio cases are believed to be the first in recent memory brought under state law for terrorism-related crimes, and show how states are starting to take matters into their own hands.
Lawyers and supporters of the men — all of Middle-Eastern descent — said they believed they were arrested because of their ethnicity, and that they were only looking to make some money by buying the phones and reselling them. They said the arrests reflected a worrisome trend.
"Unfortunately, these Barney Fife-like procedures of the police departments are increasing an Islamic-phobic atmosphere which already exists in American society today," said Dawud Walid, the head of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based advocacy group. His reference was to the fictional deputy sheriff on The Andy Griffith Show who was known for his exuberant if bumbling police work.
"I don't think that the prosecutor of a very small town has better intelligence information than the FBI," Walid said.
The authorities in Marietta, Ohio, and Caro, Mich., defended their work, which unfolded as the nation was in a state of heightened terrorism alert in the aftermath of a thwarted British terror plot.
1,000 phones in van
The Michigan arrests came after police were called to a Wal-Mart store in Caro early Friday where three Palestinian-Americans from the Dallas area had purchased 80 of the cell phones. Authorities had previously cautioned retailers to be wary of bulk purchasers of the devices.
Police ultimately found 1,000 of the phones in a mini-van the men had rented, along with digital photos of the Mackinac Bridge that links Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas.
Nabih Ayad, an attorney representing the three men, said he would ask a judge today to dismiss charges of material support of a terrorist organization and surveillance of a vulnerable target, and free them. A magistrate ordered the men held on $750,000 cash bond each.
Ayad said the men had taken pictures of the Mackinac Bridge after being caught up in traffic in the vicinity of the span because of construction work. He said they had also taken pictures of wildlife and scenic lakes.
On the surface, this looks like sheer paranoia.
After all, you don't need 1,000 cell phones to set off a couple bombs on a bridge.
I also heard a rumor that the batteries contained some sort of chemical that helped in the production of methamphetamine. That sounds stupid too. Surely there would be cheaper ways to get whatever precursor they want than digging it out of a cell phone.
About the phones:
I don't know how much these things cost, but it doesn't seem like the "markup" in price between a major city and a rural hamlet would be more than a couple dollars. If that.
Far as I can tell, these guys thought nothing about driving 50 to 100 to 200 miles at a pop to buy 15 or 20 disposable phones. I guess there might be a small profit margin there, if you don't mind driving all day to make $10 bucks (split three or four ways!)
What is up with this?
And, when a carload of Pakistanis pulls into Bvmfvk, Nebraska and buys a whole crate of cell phones - - that's not exactly the sort of thing that goes unnoticed by the locals.
If you know what I mean and I think you do.
Last edited by Old Dude; 08-16-2006 at 02:35 PM..
|08-16-2006, 02:43 PM||#2|
Join Date: Apr 2001
tough to say man - i used a prepay when i used to have a side job (different life) and i used it for skirting the phone taps (you have to prove someone uses that #, and if i let it expire, i can get a new #....)