Amanda Ripley

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North Carolina Terror Case: Getting Weirder by the Second

29th Jul 2009 posted in Resilience

The feds have charged Daniel Patrick Boyd and six other men, including two of his sons, with conspiring to support terrorists and to “murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons in a foreign country.” As is often the case with these pre-emptive terrorism cases, the indictment is somewhat less impressive than the law-enforcement rhetoric.

To wit: The indictment alleges that in March 2008, one defendant said to another: “We can do something,” and “I’m gonna go, we can go together,” and “I can find a few brothers,” among other things. Without context, it’s impossible to assess these comments, but they don’t exactly make the blood run cold. There are other accusations, to be sure—about traveling to Israel and then lying about it to the feds and about buying weapons, for example. But the indictment does not reveal whether the feds had an informant in the case (a complicated but likely strategy) or any specifics of the alleged overseas plots.

But the FBI sounds far more outraged in its press release.  “Their ultimate goal is to wage war on freedom and democracy,” says Owen D. Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the FBI. “September 11th is not a vague memory for us, nor should it be for anyone.”

OK, that’s all “normal” in this day and age. But the weirdest part of this case is not mentioned in the indictment at all. Turns out that before it arrested the men, the U.S. government actually saved the lead defendant from a grisly criminal sentence in Pakistan 18 years ago…  Back when he was in his early 20s, Boyd, his brother and their families moved to Pakistan to help support Afghanistan’s mujahideen rebels, who were fighting the Soviet-backed government there. We know by now that this cause fostered at least one other famous extremist... But after a couple of years, the Boyds ran into trouble. They were convicted of robbing a bank in a somewhat dubious Pakistani trial, and it was the U.S. government that helped to save them from having their hands and feet amputated. Members of Congress, as well as State Dept officials, got involved to defend the men, and their mother went on Larry King to plead their case. After a rash of publicity, the Pakistani courts overturned the verdict and sent the men home.

I don’t know what to make of this yet, but it is a strange irony. Meanwhile, Boyd’s wife has talked to the News & Observer in Raleigh. She said that her husband and their two sons are innocent. And her story about how the arrests went down is truly bewildering. If it is true, it suggests the weirdness has only just begun…