This LA Times story ponders how Bryant Vinas, a convert to Islam who gave Al-Qaeda ops information on the New York subways, ended up with Al-Qaeda when he wasn’t in touch with the “jihadist pipeline.” We learn that he was “yearning to become a Muslim jihad fighter,” but how he came to this yearning is never discussed. Of course, a consideration of this question would almost certainly lead to the violent and supremacist verses of the Qur’an and teachings of Islam, and so it is passed over in silence.
An update on this story. “American forged own path into Al Qaeda: Instead of the ‘jihadist pipeline,’ a Muslim convert tapped into an informal network of militants — a cause for concern, intelligence experts say,” by Josh Meyer and Sebastian Rotella for the Los Angeles Times, July 26 (thanks to Christopher):
Reporting from Washington — Bryant Neal Vinas’ unlikely odyssey from Long Island, N.Y., to Al Qaeda’s innermost circle of commanders in Pakistan was achieved without any help in the U.S. from the well-oiled “jihadist pipeline” that has guided so many militants from Europe and other countries — a fact that is cause for concern, current and former U.S. counter-terrorism officials said.
His case, which became public last week, showed that a U.S. convert to Islam bent on waging holy war could — without much difficulty — rely largely on friends and acquaintances to find his own way into the shadowy terrorist networks.
Current and former intelligence officials said that although they were able to at least partly track Vinas, they fear that the informal network of militants in Pakistan that he tapped into is widespread and below the radar of U.S. intelligence gathering.
Juan Zarate, the former deputy national security advisor for combating terrorism in the Bush administration, said that the Vinas case illustrated how difficult it was to follow young men who become radicalized and make their way to militant camps in Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.
“I don’t think the FBI or [CIA] would say that they’ve seen even a poorly organized or loose [U.S.] pipeline,” Zarate said. “But I don’t think anyone is fully confident that we have full visibility of all the potential pipelines or of radicalized individuals trying to make their way to fight.”
“We’re not worried about volume,” Zarate added. “But all you need is a cell to inflict damage.”
One former senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said Friday that American authorities were watching Vinas long before his arrest in Pakistan in November, possibly even before he bought a plane ticket taking him from the small village of Patchogue, N.Y., to Lahore, Pakistan.
The former official said U.S. and Pakistani authorities tried to monitor Vinas as he made his way from one contact to another and, ultimately, to an Afghan fighting unit and Al Qaeda’s operational leadership.
“Clearly, we were watching him very carefully, doing our best to understand what he was doing and whether he was coming back to launch an attack of some sort,” said the former official, who, like others quoted, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the ongoing investigation.
Vinas, 26, began cooperating with U.S. officials almost immediately after his arrest, providing what one current federal law enforcement official described as an astounding level of detail about Al Qaeda’s top leadership and some of its foot soldiers.
“From the time that he was picked up until the present, we estimate that we have had at least a hundred meetings with him. We have shown him countless photos, we have shown him maps, brought him pictures. We’ve had sketch artists. We’ve done everything we can to try and paint as complete of a picture of who he met along the way, where he went, what he did and all of those things,” the official said. “I think it’s fair to say that he has been a gold mine, not just for the FBI but for the intelligence community in general.”
Vinas also told authorities that most, if not all, of those who helped him along the way had no idea of his intentions — a claim backed up through months of independent, intensive investigation, according to that official and others.
“From what we can tell . . . the contacts he made were his own. He was self-recruited; he was yearning to become a Muslim jihad fighter,” the official said. “He made his own path.”…