It seems red flags are repeatedly being missed in regards to the radical Islamic terrorists here in the US.
Looking into the past of Ahmad Rahami, the latest radical Islamic terrorist to carry out a terrorist attack on US soil, he began traveling to Quetta, Pakistan and Afghanistan multiple times over the past several of years. After his trips overseas, his appearance and behavior began to noticeably change according to friends and customers of his family’s restaurant.
Every time he returned to the US, he was sent to secondary screening/questioning by US Customs and Border Protection officers. After questioning, his travel details were entered into a national database and he went on his way back to his life here in the US. Each time he claimed his reason for visiting was to see family members. Pakistan and Afghanistan are both safe havens for the Taliban, al Qaeda, and ISIS. According to the Guardian,
The 28-year-old, who was born in Afghanistan but became a US citizen, spent time at the Kaan Kuwa Naqshbandi madrassa on his two visits to Pakistan, a security official working for the government of Balochistan province told the Guardian.
Rahami spent three weeks in 2011 receiving “lectures and Islamic education” at the school in Kuchlak, a dusty cluster of villages 20km north of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, he said.
Kuchlak is a well-known hub for the Taliban, the Islamist movement that has waged a 15-year insurgency against local and Nato forces in nearby Afghanistan. It is home to many madrassas, the seminaries intimately linked with the Taliban, originally a movement of religious students.
Here is a brief timeline of his life prior to the terrorist attacks:
1995: Arrived in the US from Afghanistan (age 7)
2011: Became a US citizen (age 23)
2011: Trip to Kandahar, Afghanistan
2011: Traveled to Quetta, Pakistan (married a woman in Pakistan)
2013-2014: Year long trip to Pakistan
2014: Contacted Rep. Albio Sires (D-8th Dist.) for assistance with getting his pregnant wife into the US
2014: His father reports him to FBI 5 months after his return.
Despite his father claiming his son was now radicalized following his trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan, FBI and law enforcement stated in a New York Times interview that his father was not that forthcoming with information as he appears to be now.
Law enforcement officials familiar with the case who would discuss it only on the condition of anonymity said that Mr. Rahami called his son a “terrorist” when talking to local police, which led to the F.B.I.’s involvement.
Mr. Rahami said that during the course of the investigation he told agents from the bureau everything he knew about his son’s activities.
“I told the F.B.I. to keep an eye on him,” he said. “They said, ‘Is he a terrorist?’ I said: ‘I don’t know. I can’t guarantee you 100 percent if he is a terrorist. I don’t know which groups he is in. I can’t tell you.’”
But he said he had laid out his concerns, specifically related to what he described as his son’s emerging infatuation with Islamic extremism.
“The way he speaks, his videos, when I see these things that he listens to, for example, Al Qaeda, Taliban, he watches their videos, their poetry,” he said he told the federal agents.
In the interviews, the elder Mr. Rahami spoke about his son’s admiration of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was once Al Qaeda’s leading propagandist and is popular with followers of the Islamic State, and also recalled that his son watched Mr. Awlaki’s videos.- New York Post
After reviewing their records, the FBI recalled the 2014 investigation:
A senior law enforcement official familiar with the assessment said that “During its assessment on Ahmad Rahami, the F.B.I. initiated contact with his father, who had expressed concern over his son’s internet use as well as some of his associates. Ahmad Rahami’s travel revealed no information that tied him to terrorism”
“At no time,” the official said, “did the father advise interviewing agents of any radicalization or alleged links to Al Qaeda, the Taliban or their propaganda. Furthermore, database and interagency checks, to include reviews of Ahmad Rahami’s travel, revealed no information that tied him to terrorism.”- New York Post
Now that his wife is back in the US, perhaps she will cooperate with investigators and fill in some of theses information gaps of his foreign connections.
Ahmad Rahami appears to be just another terrorist that traveled abroad and returned radicalized, similar to Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Boston bomber), Syed Farouk (San Bernadino shooting), and Faisal Shahzad (attempted car bomb in NYC). Like Maj. Nidal Hasan (Ft. Hood shooting) and Omar Mateen (Pulse Nightclub shooting), Ahmad Rahami was investigated by the FBI prior to the attacks. The red flags are either getting missed, ignored, or there are too many to effectively manage. It is understandable that the FBI and law enforcement is not going to catch everything. How do we stop preventable attacks when the red flags are there?
Editorial cartoon courtesy of Robert L. Lang