Fort Dix Terrorist Plot

A terrorist plot on Fort Dix has been thwarted, AP reports.

Six men were planning to attack the Fort Dix Army base and “kill as many soldiers as possible,” federal authorities said Tuesday.

The men, Yugoslav nationals, were arrested early Tuesday, said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office in New Jersey.

Like Steven Taylor, my initial take is that these are just some yahoos rather than part of something truly dangerous.

Indeed, Fort Dix strikes me as a strange target, given that it’s not exactly the nerve center of the American defense grid. According to their Web site, here’s what they have:

  • 1079th Garrison Support Unit
  • Fort Dix NCO Academy
  • Air Mobility Warfare Center
  • American Red Cross
  • Kelley Reserve Center
  • Liberty Brigade ROTC
  • Federal Bureau of Prisons
  • Headquarters New Jersey Army & Air National Guard
  • U.S. Coast Guard, Atlantic Strike Team
  • New Jersey Youth Challenge Program
  • U.S. MEPCOM Fort Dix
  • Navy Expeditionary Combat Command
  • Joint Personal Property Shipping Office

We’ll learn more soon, I imagine, as to who these men are, what their motivations were, and how serious the threat was. One thing we know for sure, though: This proves conclusively that we need to keep Eastern European immigrants out of the country.

UPDATE: The plot thickens. An updated version of the AP story at YahooNews reports that, “four of the men were born in the former Yugoslavia, one in Jordan and one in Turkey. Five of them lived in Cherry Hill, 10 miles east of Philadelphia and 20 miles southwest of Fort Dix.” Given that Muslim Bosnia was part of “the former Yugoslavia,” — and that it would seem unlikely that four Slovenians or Orthodox Serbs would join up with two Muslims — we’re likely dealing with Islamists. That does not, of course, preclude their simply being nuts.

Commenter legion points to a CNN story saying these men were “either U.S. citizens or living illegally in the United States.” Via Mexico, no doubt.

Tony Snow tells the press: “They are not charged with being members of an international terrorism organization. At least at this point, there is no evidence that they received direction from international terror organizations. However, their involvement in weapons training, operational surveillance and discussions about killing American military personnel warranted a strong law enforcement response.”

Yeah, I’d say so.

Also, here’s a clue as to “why Ft. Dix?”

Fort Dix is used to train soldiers, particularly reservists. In 1999, it sheltered more than 4,000 ethnic Albanian refugees during the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

After that war, refugees were allowed to return to the U.N.-run province of Kosovo in Serbia or to seek permanent residency in the United States. The U.N. Security Council is considering whether to approve a plan to grant Kosovo independence from Serbia under the supervision of the European Union and the United States.

UPDATE: Rusty Shackleford believes discussions of whether these men are part of a formal network “misses the point of al Qaeda 3.0. Anyone can be ‘al Qaeda’ now just by claiming to be, that’s the nature of a non-hierarchical network.”

There’s something to that, to be sure. Still, for a concept to have any use as a heuristic, it needs to have a meaningful parameters. It remains to be seen whether these guys turn out to be serious terrorists in any significant sense.

UPDATE: The federal prosecutors seem to think they are.

Officials said the group had a collection of jihadist videos, including video of the last will and testament of two of the 19 hijackers from the September 11, 2001, attacks and video of Osama bin Laden calling Muslims to jihad. The men also showed videos to each other of killings of U.S. military personnel around the world, officials said. “They watched the blowing off of the arm of a United States Marine, and the room burst out into laughter,” Christie said.

The men are believed to have been “inspired” by international terrorist groups, but not directly linked to a specific organization, he said.

He said defendant Shain Duka was heard on tape saying, “We can do a lot of damage with seven people. We can do big things.”

A law enforcement source told CNN the group played paintball and test fired weapons as part of their training. “These guys were clearly committed to the task they had set before them,” Fran Townsend, the White House’s homeland security adviser, told CNN.

Their goal was to figure out how to kill as many American soldiers as possible, [New Jersey U.S. Attorney Christopher J.] Christie said. The men had surveyed a number of bases but settled on Fort Dix because one of the defendants said he knew the base “like the back of his hand” because he had delivered pizza there, Christie said. “They were at the point where they wanted to obtain the automatic weapons that would be the final piece in their plan… to create carnage at Fort Dix,” Christie said. “I think it could have been a disaster,” he said. “These people were ready for martyrdom.”

Given that they were attacking an Army base, they’d have gotten that for sure.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Terrorism, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Boyd says:

    Uh oh. Now you’re gonna be in trouble with the sarcasm-impaired crowd again.

  2. Michael says:

    Have they mentioned the ethnicity of the attackers? I’m just curious.

  3. legion says:

    CNN says

    One of the suspects was born in Jordan, another in Turkey, the U.S. attorney’s office said. The rest are believed to be Yugoslavian, “either U.S. citizens or living illegally in the United States,” the office said in a statement.

    I suspect we’ll find this to be more like a potential crime than a potential terror plot.

  4. Tlaloc says:

    While authorities are glad to have arrested them, the individuals are “hardly hard core terrorists,” one law enforcement source said.

    Another source said that while the allegations are “troubling,” they are “not the type that made the hair on the back of your neck stand up.”

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/05/08/fortdix.plot/

    Yep, clueless nutjobs, not hardened terrorists.

  5. Michael says:

    Yep, clueless nutjobs, not hardened terrorists.

    I think the same can be said about most terrorists, until they pull off an attack.

    It’s hard to become a “hardened terrorist” when your first mission’s objective includes you dying.

  6. Steve Plunk says:

    Recently a lone nut job killed 32 people. Five or six jihadis certainly could have killed a good many more before being killed themselves.

    The connection does not have to be with some sort of organized international terrorist group. The connection is a philosophy of death and religious superiority. The whole concept of Al Qaeda is based upon loose organization to make it difficult to counter.

    This is further evidence of it being a very small step from fervent Muslim to terrorist. I hesitate to say it that way but the facts point to such a conclusion.

  7. Here’s the FBI affadavit:

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2007/0508071ftdix1.html

    I find it noteworthy that one of the terrorists told the FBI informant that money was not a problem. On the other hand, he also said that he had been saving his own money for the attack, so this doesn’t prove they had outside funding.

  8. Anderson says:

    What maroons:

    The big break in the bust apparently came in January 2006, when one of the men brought a video to a video store to be duplicated onto a DVD. The store employee was disturbed by the video, which showed “10 young men who appeared to be in their early twenties shooting assault weapons at a firing range in a militia-like style while calling for jihad and shouting in Arabic “Allah Akbar” (“God is Great”), according to an FBI affidavit. The FBI then successfully penetrated the group and began tracking their movements, according to the affidavit.

    Isn’t it “Allahu akbar”?

  9. Michael says:

    The big break in the bust apparently came in January 2006, when one of the men brought a video to a video store to be duplicated onto a DVD.

    Ok, so maybe the title “nutjob” is appropriate here afterall.

  10. Tlaloc says:

    I think the same can be said about most terrorists, until they pull off an attack.

    No because there are people who are serious about their work and get the training to pull it off, and then there are idiots who get really wasted and come up with some half assed plan that they try to enact later. These guys are pretty clearly more Cheech and less Zarqawi.

    It’s like that “terrorist” ring that got broken up a year ago in Florida. Only it turned out the guys were total puds.

    Don’t get me wrong, by all means arrest them and charge them with attempted murder, or whatever you can make stick. But this is in the same league with a FBI task force catching the appledumpling gang, not a big coup for the DHS.

  11. Bandit says:

    the terror symps can barely contain their disappointment.

  12. Anderson says:

    Drum sees the master plan at work:

    Is al-Qaeda recruiting these doofuses just to lull us into a false sense of security? Or maybe they’re Jon Stewart fans and want to provide him with fresh material? WTF?

  13. Gee, shouldn’t the FBI have waited until the threat was imminent?

  14. Anderson says:

    Gee, shouldn’t the FBI have waited until the threat was imminent?

    A major shipment of paintballs was set to arrive.

  15. Tlaloc says:

    Gee, shouldn’t the FBI have waited until the threat was imminent?

    Only if they hadn’t yet collected enough evidence to try the guys.

    It’s not hard: there’s two times where you arrest the people-

    1) you have a solid case against them
    2) you have strong reason to believe a crime is imminent.

    The first case is the preferred by far. the second is just so you can avert a catastrophe, and then you hope you can manage to put together a case afterwards.

  16. Steve Plunk says:

    I see many think just because these guys are stupid they represented no real threat. Think again.

    They don’t need to be smart to pull a trigger or make a fertilizer bomb. How about jump in a fuel truck and crash it into a school?

    Apple Dumpling Gang? Paintballs? Rifles were a minor purchase away down at the sporting goods store. Minimizing this type of homegrown threat is a mistake.

  17. Anderson says:

    Right, Steve, but they were going to attack a fort.

    I think if they’d been planning to hit a day care, we’d all be more like “oh my god.”

  18. Triumph says:

    A terrorist plot on Fort Dix has been thwarted, AP reports.

    Umm, an attack on a military installation isn’t “terrorist”–at least as far as the Federal Government is concerned.

  19. Dave Schuler says:

    James, I guess I’m not expressing sufficient shock and horror at this story but I can only think of the Piranha Brothers.

    Luigi: (Michael Palin) (looking round office casually) You’ve … you’ve got a nice army base here, Colonel.

    Colonel: Yes.

    Luigi: We wouldn’t want anything to happen to it.

    I’m left with only one question: if we can’t harden a military base, what target can we harden?

  20. Tlaloc says:

    They don’t need to be smart to pull a trigger or make a fertilizer bomb. How about jump in a fuel truck and crash it into a school?

    Apparently you have to be smart enough to buy the gun which these jerk offs were not.

    See the appledumpling gang comparison? Let’s face it when you can’t buy guns in America you have a severe IQ deficiency.

    Is there something in the water in redstates that causes people to inflate threats all out of proportion?

    Anderson:

    Right, Steve, but they were going to attack a fort.

    Right which is the second part. Not only were they incompetent to pull off a school shooting kind of scenario but they were aiming at a target that would have reamed them.

  21. Steve Plunk says:

    The point in attacking an army base is to show no fear of the enemy. Face it, this would have been a suicide attack so why not hit the enemy where it would seem the strongest (even though it’s a military base there are only a few people with loaded weapons walking around). The impact on those abroad who hate us would be immense. They would speak of the heroes who attacked a military base and showed the world the weakness of the U.S.. Of course they could have also changed targets and gone to the local mall or school.

    They could have also been waiting to buy the weapons until just before any attack. Why buy early when it could attract attention?

    Again, the potential for a serious loss of life was very real. If a twenty something at Virginia Tech can kill 32 how many could six armed with rifles kill? Six religious fanatics? Six who didn’t care if they lived or died?

    We can shoot holes in their plan all day but that doesn’t lessen the fact it could have succeeded. Bumbling idiots can do a lot of damage. They were looking to do us harm, that’s enough of a threat for me.

  22. Brian says:

    Indeed, Fort Dix strikes me as a strange target, given that it’s not exactly the nerve center of the American defense grid.

    Fort Dix is the mobilization Post for Combat Support Reserve and Guard Units going to Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The Training Area at the Installation where those soldier would be driving isn’t blocked off by gates, but is rather connected to the local roads and towns with some houses and hunting areas in it.

    It would be rather simple to target soldiers in Hummers due to the nature of the training area.

  23. Alan Kellogg says:

    Clue proof certainly fits these guys. Think about the most likely outcome of an attack on a military base. One with lots of casualties on our side. Our next president had better be ready to expand our war effort in a meaningful way were such an event to occur.

  24. Anderson says:

    Think about the most likely outcome of an attack on a military base. One with lots of casualties on our side. Our next president had better be ready to expand our war effort in a meaningful way were such an event to occur.

    Guys … THAT’S WHAT OSAMA WANTS.

    See pg. 3 of this interview w/ Alistair Horne for ex:

    Horne then sprung another one of his now-familiar sly rhetorical questions. “Do you think we were enticed into Iraq by Osama bin Laden?”

    I replied that Horne had pointed out in his book that it was Insurgency 101 to use terror to make your adversary respond with such disproportionate force that the population goes over to you. “I think we gave him a gift beyond his wildest dreams,” I said.

    “Yes, we always assume that our adversaries are stronger than they really are,” Horne said. “Except when it comes to Germany. Osama is rubbing his hands in glee. Everything’s going his way.”

  25. Bithead says:

    Hmmm. THere may be another reason why Dix was a target.

    Admittedly, a lower level target, but in being so, one that will suffer a greater amount of casualties for it’s lesser security.

    Given it’s proximity to NYC, the resulting news reporting is sure to generate wall to wall coverage for the next several cycles, at least, which tio my mind is the primary goal of any terririst act, anyway. The rsulting feeding frenzy would be the equivaent of a grand slam home run.

    But no, Anderson, you’re wrong.
    OBL’s worst nightmare is that America will actually respond in force to such things. The fervent hope on his part is that we’ll simply capitulate.

    What is it the left wants us to do?
    Oh, yeah… roll over.

  26. Michael says:

    I heard on NPR that this base also housed Albanian refugees during the NATO campaign over Kosovo in Yugoslavia. Given that most of those arrested were from Yugoslavia, there may be a connection there too.

  27. Anderson says:

    Let’s see: professional AQ analysts, historians, etc. say “yes”; Bithead says “no.”

    Guess I’ll go with Bithead on that one.

  28. Bithead says:

    Well, let’s see, Anderson; Are tehse the same ones that warned us so far in advance of 9/11?

    Forgive me if Im reluctant to take their advice at this point; Given the history of the thing, they’re simply not credible.

  29. Chris says:

    In response to Michael’s statement about what NPR said:

    Most of these news reports seem misleading to me. They say former Yugoslavia, but what they really mean is Macedonia. Macedonia is 75% Christian and 25% Muslim.

    Unless I’m mistaken, majority of those Muslims are actually Albanians. So them doing terrorist attacks makes even less sense since America was helping their population last decade when they fought Yugoslavia(Serbia & Montenegro).

  30. notPC says:

    It is typical of the far lefties to criticize the government for arresting people planning to commit mass murder. They believe they should have been left alone to do it, and then either sent to counseling or given an award. They were stupid, yes, so were many of the young men who have blown themselves up in order that they might kill people whose beliefs differ from theirs. Stop sticking up for them, and stop blaming the victims. It is this support for the terrorists, coming from within the societies which they attack, that actually enables them. Is it a coincidence that the rise in terrorism coincides with the rise in political correctness? But if that doesn’t fit your dogma, just continue to ignore it.