It’s not clear whether Suarez was already a Muslim when he began working at Key West International Airport or if he converted while he was working there, but it’s the same in either case: his supervisors wouldn’t have dared try to ascertain whether or not he had any jihadist sympathies. To make such inquiries would have been “Islamophobic.” No matter how many people might have gotten killed.
“Fla. terror suspect had been cleared for Key West airport job,” by Kevin Johnson, USA Today, July 29, 2015:
(USA TODAY) A Florida man charged earlier this week in an alleged Islamic State-inspired plot to detonate a bomb on a crowded beach was once cleared to work at the Key West International Airport, where his job provided him direct access to secure areas, including baggage compartments of commercial aircraft, an airline spokesman and co-workers said.
One of his co-workers, a former supervisor, said that Harlem Suarez, 23, once asked how he could get a gun on a plane. The former supervisor, who asked not to be identified out of fear of possible retaliation by the supervisor’s current employer, said that Suarez’s inquiry from last summer was reported to a manager. But the supervisor was unaware whether any action was taken.
Ted Lund, another former co-worker of Suarez’s, said the supervisor also told him about Suarez’s reference to a gun. He also did not know whether there was any response to the report.
“Any mention of a gun at an airport is really a red flag,” said Lund, now a Florida freelance journalist who has written for Florida Today, a property of Gannett, which also owns USA TODAY. “It’s not something you joke about at an airport.”
American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein confirmed Wednesday that Suarez was employed by Envoy Air Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of American, as a station agent at Key West, from December 2013 to March 2015.
Feinstein, who said Suarez’s duties ranged from passenger check-in to baggage handling, declined comment on what prompted the agent’s departure from the company in March, the month before the FBI was alerted by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department of extremist rhetoric posted on a Facebook account allegedly traced to Suarez.
Asked whether the company was aware of Suarez’s reported query about a gun, Feinstein referred questions to federal authorities.
The FBI in Miami declined to comment.
Federal prosecutors announced the case against Suarez on Tuesday, charging the legal permanent resident from Cuba with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Court documents outlined his interactions with an FBI informant and undercover agent in an alleged pursuit earlier this month of bomb-making components, including grenades, a timing device and nails that could be assembled in a backpack and buried in the sand.
“We can make it (bomb) with a phone …,” Suarez allegedly told an FBI source in a July 16 telephone conversation that was recorded by authorities. “I can go to the beach at night time … put the thing in the sand … cover it up … so the next day I just call and the thing is gonna, is gonna make a real hard noise.”
In a separate meeting with the source three days later, according to court documents, Suarez allegedly discussed “putting bombs under police cars, in front of police officers’ homes and possibly purchasing a vehicle and building a car bomb.” None of the potential plots outlined in court documents involved an aviation-related target.
Suarez allegedly purchased two boxes of nails July 19 at a Home Depot store and later turned over the nails, a pre-paid cellular phone and backpack to the source for assembly by the FBI undercover agent posing as an ISIL operative.
Suarez was arrested Monday,after accepting the device that had been previously rendered inert and posed no safety risk, according to court documents.
Attorney Richard Della Ferra, retained to represent Suarez, described his client as a “kid with no prior criminal history who appears to be a troubled and confused young man.”
“He is not a terrorist,” Della Ferra said, adding that Suarez arrived in the U.S., in 2004 with his parents as refugees from Cuba. “He has no ties to the Middle East. The family is as surprised and shocked at the allegations as anyone. He has never been in trouble before.”
The attorney also said that he was unaware of his client’s reported reference to getting a gun on a plane.
“That’s the first I’m hearing of this,” he said….
Lund described Suarez as someone who always sought to work additional hours, mostly assigned to late night or early morning shifts. Lund, who left the company in October, said he learned that Suarez had encountered trouble earlier this year when he deployed the emergency slide while working on an aircraft. Lund said the incident prompted an investigation, which he believed, ultimately led to Suarez’s separation from the company….