President Obama and his followers continue to urge caution in jumping to conclusions about the motive of Ahmad Khan Rahami, the bomber who terrorized New York City and New Jersey over the weekend, even as we continue to learn more about this apparent anti-Western jihadist.
Friends have reported that Rahami grew a beard, dressed in traditional robes and began devoting himself to Islam after numerous trips to jihadist hotbeds in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as Fox News reports.
Rahami’s first documented trip to Pakistan was in 2005, when he visited Karachi as a 17 year old, The New York Times reported. Rahami stayed in Karachi, known as a jihadi hotbed, for a few months before returning to New Jersey in January 2006. In 2011, Rahami made another lengthy trip, visiting Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Quetta, Pakistan. He again visited Quetta from April 2013 to March 2014. Multiple sources told Fox News that Rahami visited Afghanistan at least three times. Rahami was stopped on one trip for secondary screening, but he satisfied the questions and was cleared, a source told Fox News.
Friends of Rahami’s who spoke with media outlets trace the roots of his radicalism to his trips overseas.
“It’s like he was a completely different person,” a friend of Rahami’s, Flee Jones, told The New York Times. “He got serious and completely closed off.”
Rahami also exhibited anti-Western and anti-military sentiment when he was around his young daughter, a former girlfriend, Maria, told FoxNews.com.And while none of these raised alarms with any authorities, what his father told police — back in 2014 — did.
The FBI opened an investigation on Ahmad Khan Rahami after his father told police in 2014 his son was a terrorist https://t.co/nD8rAWhP4w
— The New York Times (@nytimes) September 20, 2016
We’d all been a bit shaken to learn that Rahami had not been on the US counterterrorism watch list at the time of last weekend’s bombings. Well, turns out, he had once been a subject of an FBI investigation, just two years ago.
However, perhaps even more worrisome than the fact he wasn’t on the list when he bombed our homeland last weekend, is that fact that Rahami had previously made it onto authorities’ radar — but then was dropped.
As The New York Times reports:
Two years before Ahmad Khan Rahami went on a bombing rampage in New York and New Jersey, his father told the police that the son was a terrorist, prompting a review by federal agents, according to two senior law enforcement officials.
Separately on Tuesday, another official said that when Mr. Rahami was captured during a shootout with the police, he was carrying a notebook that contained writings sympathetic to jihadist causes.
In one section of the book, which was pierced by a bullethole and covered in blood, Mr. Rahami wrote of “killing the kuffar,” or unbeliever, according to the official, who agreed to speak about the investigation only on the condition of anonymity.
[Note to President Obama: think the jihadist writings might provide you a clue to Rahami’s motives? Maybe???]
Officials are also looking at whether he had any assistance in building the bombs or if anyone knew what he was doing and failed to report it.
Of particular interest to the authorities is a series of trips Mr. Rahami made to Pakistan, once staying for nearly a year.
The father made the statement about his son being a terrorist to New Jersey police in 2014, when Mr. Rahami was arrested after a domestic dispute and accused of stabbing his brother.
The information was passed to the Joint Terrorism Task Force led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Newark. Officers opened what is known as an assessment, the most basic of F.B.I. investigations, and interviewed the father, who then recanted.
An official, when asked about the inquiry, said the father made the comment out of anger at his son.
It is not clear if officers interviewed Ahmad Rahami.
On Tuesday morning, outside the family’s restaurant in Elizabeth, the father, Mohammad Rahami, told reporters, “I called the F.B.I. two years ago,” he said, shaking his fingers in the air.
Asked if he specifically meant his son, Mr. Rahami stormed away. A short time later, he responded to a reporter who asked, “Do you think your son is a terrorist?”
“No,” Mohammad Rahami said. “And the F.B.I., they know that.”
Now, of course we don’t know the full details of the FBI’s prior investigation into Raham. But on the surface, one might conclude that the bomber’s father told authorities his son was a “terrorist”
Ahmad Rahami spent over three months in jail on charges related to the domestic dispute, according to a high-ranking law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. A grand jury, however, declined to indict Mr. Rahami. Assistant Director William F. Sweeney, who heads the F.B.I.’s New York office, alluded on Monday at a news conference to a “domestic incident” in which he said the “allegations were recanted.”
Now, of course we don’t know the full details of the FBI’s prior investigation into Raham. But on the surface, one might conclude that the FBI’s investigation into a potential “terrorist” was dropped, at least in part, because the father recanted his previous statement about his son. Keep in mind that this was in 2014, after Rahami had returned from several lengthy visits to jihadist hotbeds and, according to friends, returned changed and “anti-Western.”
One might have thought that, even with the father recanting his assessment of his son as a “terrorist,” some relatively light digging might have caused the FBI to consider keeping an eye on Rahami nonetheless.
Of course, we know from other former officials that the Obama administration has exerted pressure not to upset the Muslim American community, which has led to some counterterrorism investigations being cut off at the knees. The Boston Marathon bombers, the San Bernardino terrorists … and now this? Are we seeing a pattern here?
Meanwhile, the left is positively skewering GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump for suggesting the weekend’s incidents on the East Coast — as well as the separate one in Minnesota — are a wake-up call that we need to implement profiling to safeguard the American people.
Gosh, the more we learn about Rahami and his prior close brushes with the FBI, the more it’s difficult not to think Donald Trump is right, once again.
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]