Just a random Egyptian national with a Sudanese passport in Calverton, Long Island building a random unmanned drone that carries random explosives. Heck, have a little sense of perspective! If you think this has anything to do with terrorism, next thing you know you'll be locking up Methodist grandmothers in Kansas when they build their unmanned explosive-carrying drones! Just a little backyard fun here, folks. Move along.
"Unmanned Drone On L.I. Sparks Terror Investigation," by Jonathan Dienst for WNBC.com, August 22 (thanks to all who sent this in):
NEW YORK -- An unmanned drone being built by an engineer on Long Island sparked a large counter-terrorism investigation across the New York area, officials tell WNBC.com. Police said they had stumbled upon overnight testing of the drone at a little-used airstrip in Calverton, Long Island.
The investigation began in February of last year, when investigators first learned testing of the drone was underway. Officials said the drone was being designed to carry more than 600 pounds of explosives.
"It could be in the air for 8-10 hours and there's potential harm if it is carrying a large amount of toxic material," NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in explaining why his department's counterterrorism officials were concerned.
Police surveillance video obtained by News 4 New York shows a white van rolling onto the tarmac, a small group of men jumping out and ground testing the unmanned flight vehicle.
Kelly said the engineer building the drone never reported his work to any agency including the Federal Aviation Administration or local authorities. Investigators said concern increased for a time when they learned the man behind the project was an Egyptian national who had entered the U.S. on a Sudanese passport. [...]
"It was such a bizarre set of circumstances," said New York State Homeland Security Director Michael Balboni. "Of course we watched it as closely as we did anything that was on our radar screen."
NYPD officials worked with Suffolk County police and the FBI to determine there were no ties to terror. Under questioning, the engineer said he was an inventor hoping to sell this drone model to the U.S. military. NYPD Lieutenant William McGroarty said during the investigation they had other questions....
In this case, police said there is no evidence any laws were broken as the drone was tested on the ground. Officials said if it had gone into the air without prior FAA approval, it could have been considered a crime....
Andy McCarthy explains what's fishy about this:
First, as we might recall from other investigations over the past several years, it is the practice especially of the FBI to find "no ties to terror" in any case involving Muslims where there is no known evidence of a relationship between the subjects of the investigation and any established terrorist organization (such as al Qaeda or Hezbollah). Because of concerns about "profiling" — despite the fact that we are under siege by Muslim terrorists — the fact that investigative subjects happen to be Muslims is deemed irrelevant (as if, in a Mafia investigation, you would have to ignore whether a subject was Italian or not for fear of being accused of Italophobia.) There is no concession in the report that the subjects of this investigation are Muslims. I'm gonna go out on a limb, though, and guess there's an itsy-bitsy chance given that the engineer in question is an Egyptian national with a Sudanese passport. The happenstance that the subjects may be Muslims would not of itself make them guilty of anything — but it's not irrelevant.
Second, as I recount in Willful Blindness, the first known activities of the jihadist cell that eventually killed Meir Kahane in 1990, plotted to kill Hosni Mubarak in 1992, bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, and was stopped a few months later in the midst of plotting to bomb other New York City landmarks, was the FBI's investigation of paramilitary training over several weekends in July 1989. The Muslim men in question — who at the time were not known to have ties to any established terrorist organizatoin but went on to carry out the aforementioned plots — piled into vans at a radical mosque in Brooklyn and traveled to a shooting range where they conducted shooting practice with a variety of weapons, including AK-47s. The FBI closed the investigation when the men discovered they were under surveillance and complained that they were being harrassed.
The shooting range they chose for the training was in Calverton, Long Island.