The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force has opted out of the case of two New York men allegedly involved in a plot to blow up a local synagogue over concerns it is not a bona fide terrorism case, WNYC reports.
Two federal law enforcement sources, who spoke to the station on condition of anonymity, said the FBI did not take the case of the two alleged New York City terrorists because the end result was being over-hyped and the agency felt the case would not hold up in court.
Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne rejected the Federal critique, saying, "When somebody acquires weapons and plans to bomb the largest synagogue in Manhattan he can find, what do you call it, mischief?"
Over the years, there have been tensions between the FBI and the NYPD, WNYC reports. The NYPD maintains its own sophisticated counterterrorism unit and has 1,000 officers committed to intelligence gathering and infrastructure protection. It also has detectives deployed in several major cities around the world.
Ahmed Ferhani, who is from Algeria, and Mohamed Mamdouh, who is from Morocco, were arrested after Ferhani was caught in a police sting trying to buy guns, ammunition and a hand grenade. Police and prosecutors said they laid the trap after an undercover investigator who had befriended the pair recorded Ferhani talking about attacking a city synagogue and maybe the Empire State Building. Both men came to the U.S. during grade school. Officials characterized the case as one involving a “pair of lone wolves” who were not part of a broader global terrorism conspiracy.
The “lone wolf” characterization mimics the fears of local officials regarding “home-grown” players like Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square.
Both Ferhani and Mamdouh have pleaded not guilty. They are being prosecuted by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance under a state terrorism statute passed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.