WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is being honored this week for a sting operation that led to the arrest and conviction of a Pakistani-born computer technician who joined what he thought was an al-Qaeda plot to bomb the Washington Metro transit system and who was believed to have been influenced by the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
The Anti-Defamation League plans an award ceremony Tuesday to honor the FBI agents who investigated Farooque Ahmed, who was charged last year and was sentenced to 23 years in prison after pleading guilty in April. The ADL’s second annual Shield Awards honor law enforcement agencies for hate crime and terrorism investigations.
Authorities say Ahmed scouted out several northern Virginia Metro stations, even taking video of the locations, and brainstormed methods for killing as many people as possible. The people Ahmed thought were al-Qaeda operatives were actually undercover law enforcement, and the fictional subway bomb plot itself was monitored over months by the FBI, who staged meetings at local hotels with cameras rolling.
Authorities seized firearms from Ahmed’s home as well as a CD recording of a lecture from al-Awlaki, a U.S. born-cleric killed last week by a drone strike in Yemen, and a pamphlet labeled “What does Islam say about terrorism?” His attorney argued that Ahmed was living in a “fantasy world” and was motivated by exposure to radical Islamic rhetoric and by misplaced trust in someone he thought was an associate.
James McJunkin, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, plans to accept the award on behalf of his office. He said in a statement that he appreciated the award, and that investigations like the Metro bomb plot were complex.
“As a result of this investigation we resolved a potential threat which could have had devastating and long lasting effects on our national transportation systems,” McJunkin said.
Other officials being honored Tuesday include Baltimore police and prosecutors who investigated and prosecuted a racially-motivated attack on an elderly black fisherman in 2009; Virginia Beach authorities who thwarted a plot to attack a high school on the 10th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre; and a federal immigration agent who arrested an Argentinian police official accused of committing war crimes.
The ADL is a non-profit organization that fights anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice. It also holds training sessions for law enforcement officials on recognizing extremist threats.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)