News broke this afternoon that federal authorities have thwarted a plot by an employee of the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport in Kansas to detonate a car bomb on the tarmac and "martyr" himself in a jihad against the nation of his birth, while providing support to Al Qaeda.
The alleged suspect, Terry Lee Loewen, was an aviation technician at the airport and was reportedly radicalized by reading Islamist/jihadist literature online. Many details still to come out on this, but here are some of my initial thoughts on the alleged plot:
--The fact that Loewen actually worked at the airport and had a security access card that allowed him to enter sensitive areas is a jihadist's dream and a nightmare for us. Talk about infiltration. We saw a similar case at London's Heathrow Airport a few years ago.
--Loewen is a a 58-year-old white guy, which means he totally doesn’t fit the typical profile of Muslim jihadist (e.g. a young male of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent). Neither, obviously did the very white Boston bombers back in April. Some yet-to-be-answered questions are when did Loewen convert, which mosque did he attend, who was his imam, what materials was he reading online and did he have any overseas ties to Al Qaeda or another jihadist group?
--Loewen is just one of several dozen U.S. Muslims arrested over the past four years for terror plots on U.S. soil. I documented this phenomenon at length in my 2011 book, The Terrorist Next Door: How the Government is Deceiving You About the Islamist Threat. In that book, I included a chapter titled "Freaks, Geeks and Jihadis" that detailed how troubled, bitter and angry individuals with personal demons were turning to Islam in increasing numbers, attracted by the dark world of jihad. Did the 58-year-old convert Loewen fit into this group? We will soon find out.
--Loewen's plan of attack fits the type of jihad model (I call them 'Chip Away" attacks) that has become the norm over the past five years. Self starter, low tech and inexpensive (think Fort Hood, Boston, and the failed Times Square plot). Anyone can join the jihad: all you need are a gun or bomb, access and deadly intent. Al Qaeda has encouraged these smaller scale, self-starter attacks and even publishes a magazine devoted to promoting such attacks to English-speaking Muslims.
--Imagine how a successful terrorist attack on an airport or airplane during the holiday season would affect us economically (massive blow to airline industry) and psychologically. Disaster on every level. The Wichita airport that Loewen allegedly targeted, by the way, is Kansas's busiest.
This alleged plot went down smack dab in the middle of the American heartland.
This is actually not a shock. In Chapter 7 of my latest book, The Brotherhood: America's Next Great Enemy, I detail how the state of Kansas has played host to some serious Al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood activity over the years.
More to come.