Today Senator Dianne Feinstein resurrected her call to cleanse the Internet of bomb-making manuals such as The Anarchist Cookbook, and Representative Peter King (R-NY) reminded us all “how the Internet is really becoming a new weapon for terrorists.”
The politicians seized the opportunity presented by the arrest of two Queens women today to promote their lust for Internet censorship. Noelle Velentzas, 28, and Asia Siddiqui, 31, were charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. But if Senator Feinstein had bothered to learn a bit more about the case, she would know that it had been an undercover officer who downloaded The Anarchist Cookbook and gave it to the women—who were afraid to look at it online. If Representative King had any sense at all, he would know that it was the women’s use of the internet that put the FBI on their trail in order to foil the “plot.”
Yes, that’s “plot” in scare quotes, because there wasn’t an actual plot, or at least the complaint doesn’t describe one. There was lots of talk of jihad and how “it is the right of a Muslim to learn how to protect oneself while trying to spread the truth.” And there was lots of talk of chemistry and months of research on explosive materials. There was generalized discussion about who one might want to bomb (not “regular” people).
In fact, according to the complaint (pg. 16), Velentzas said “she would never want to hurt anyone but, as a Muslim, she must acquire this knowledge and be ready.”
And, as usual, there was deep involvement by an undercover agent who provides a few key resources to advance the plot, although this time it was an undercover officer, rather than a paid informant. I wonder if law enforcement has trouble recruiting female informants? (It’s unclear from the complaint what gender the undercover is, but that’s my guess.)
As we have seen in many such sting operations, the targets were unfocused people: They began their bomb-making research with beginner chemistry books, then they collected random materials to make an assortment of different types of explosives, but it seems from the complaint that they never accumulated all the ingredients needed to make even one bomb. In fact, on March 22, they were still bringing up different possible explosive ingredients.
At least one news source incorrectly reported that “Valentzas (sic) also allegedly considered attacking the funeral for slain NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, according to the complaint.” Actually, it was the undercover officer who mentioned Ramos’ funeral, after it had taken place. There is no mention of a specific target in the complaint.
The undercover agent first began meeting with the women in 2013, and both expressed support for al-Qaeda and Usama bin Laden. Siddiqui had repeated contacts with members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to the complaint. Other than that, the complaint seems rather thin gruel: no plot, no bomb, no target.
Siddiqui’s attorney, Thomas Donn, told CBS News that his client would plead not guilty if she is indicted.