Model plane terrorist ‘serious threat,’ gets 17 years in plea deal
Boston Herald: A top federal prosecutor and the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston bureau lashed out today at media criticisms that two homegrown al-Qaeda sympathizers they’ve locked away for a combined quarter century in the past seven months are little more than bored young suburbanites spending too much time on their computers.
The latest, 27-year-old Northeastern University graduate Rezwan Ferdaus of Ashland, was sentenced today to a 17-year stretch as part of a deal struck with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty in July to plotting to bomb the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., with explosives-packed remote-control model airplanes.
“He was a terrorist. He absolutely was a terrorist,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Pirozzolo angrily told reporters after Ferdaus’ hearing in U.S. District Court. “Bored, rich, suburban, urban, whatever … Somebody who decides he’s going to pack an airplane with C-4 explosives …? That’s something we would take very, very seriously and prosecute to the full extent of the law.”
Pharmacist Tarek Mehanna, 30, of Sudbury, was also hit with a 17-year stretch in April for conspiring to enlist in an al-Qaeda training camp in Yemen in order to kill U.S. military abroad. Both men lived with their parents in well-to-do neighborhoods.
Asked how many more of their ilk might quietly live among us, FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers said, “I’m not going to speculate about that. The Mehanna case and the Ferdaus case speak for themselves.”
DesLauriers added, “There’s been a lot of speculation in the media the past couple days that (Ferdaus) was not a serious terrorist threat. If you had the prospect of a drone model airplane flying through your office window with 25 pounds of C-4 explosive strapped to it, I think you’d agree this was a serious threat.”
Surrounded by family who dragged her away from news cameras, Ferdaus mother, Anamaria Ferdaus, held up a piece of paper directing the public to a website in support of her son while screaming, “My son is innocent!” Mehanna’s parents were present as well, but declined comment as they left the courthouse.
In a soft-spoken address to the court, Ferdaus said, “Who other than God knows what it takes to make a good human being? We are all human beings and cannot be depicted as otherwise.” He expressed no remorse.
Judge Richard G. Stearns, obviously touched by Ferdaus’ words, assured him his soul-searching would help get him through the tough years behind bars ahead, as well as the decade to follow when he’ll be on supervised release. “Mr Ferdaus, you don’t need any lecture from me. I’m going to leave it up to you,” Stearns said.
In a heartbreaking six-page letter to Stearns, Ferdaus parents said their son “fell into depression” during his senior year at Northeastern, where he graduated in 2008 with a degree in physics, and they implored him to seek mental health counseling. “He felt irritated. He told us that he did not believe in doctors and hospitals,” they wrote. “We took a very cautious approach. After all, he was over 18 and we could not force him to see a doctor. That is the American way. We felt helpless.”
Ferdaus pleaded guilty to attempting to damage or destroy a federal building by means of an explosive and attempting to provide material support to terrorists. But the al-Qaeda operatives he thought he was impressing were actually undercover federal agents, who kept his plot flush with cash, assault rifles, grenades and the explosives.
Prosecutors believe Ferdaus began preparing to commit “jihad” on goverment buildings and was intent on killing as many people as possible around 2010 after viewing Islamic radical websites and deciding America was “evil” and the enemy of Allah.
He told the undercover agents he wanted to “decapitate” America’s “military center” and slaughter politicians with bullets as they fled the Capitol building for their lives. “I just can’t stop,” Ferdaus told the agents. “There is no other choice for me.”
Hope he’s happy with his choice now. Enjoy your time behind bars Ferdaus. I’m sure the other inmates will make sure you don’t get too bored.