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Terror and Paintballs By: Bill West
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, January 22, 2004

On January 16, two more Defendants pleaded guilty in the Alexandria, Virginia Federal “paintball” terror case that began this summer with the arrest and indictment of eleven men from varied backgrounds who came together in the Virginia countryside to engage in what they initially claimed was innocent game playing.  These latest guilty pleas, bringing the total to six in the case, are clear victories for the Government.

The Defendants were Randall Royer and Ibrahim Al-Hamdi and both entered guilty pleas to Federal firearms violations related to the case, with Royer also pleading to an explosives violation.  These Defendants will be sentenced at a later date, and trials are set for the remaining Defendants.

When the arrests were first made, there was no shortage of criticism from some about how “trivial” the case appeared to be.  Maybe the Government had really gone too far this time, arresting a group of Muslims whose only offense was enjoying a make-believe martial pastime in the hinterlands.  But, even at the outset there were clear hints that things were serious.  Royer had been stopped in his car and found with a real assault rifle and over 200 rounds of ammunition.  Search warrants at various residences recovered financial records and alleged radical Islamic literature.  Of course, prosecutors could not reveal much, and the case had to move its way through the regular criminal justice system, as it properly should.

And, as the case progressed, notwithstanding the usual and expected protestations of the supporters of the Defendants, the guilty pleas started to materialize.  The first four, then Al-Hamdi and Royer.  The remaining Defendants are presumed innocent, and are due their days in court.  But, with over half the original suspects now convicted, it’s clear this case was much more than just paintballs in the hills.  The case has received wide media coverage, and it’s linkage to an obscure Pakistani-based terror group called Lashkar-i-Taiba, which is believed allied with al-Qaeda, has been well publicized.  Lashkar-i-Taiba has engaged in terror attacks against Indian military forces and civilians in the ongoing dispute over the province of Kashmir, and is a potent force of radical Islamic terror in that region.

What hasn’t been widely reported is the employment background of Defendant Royer.  Earlier press reports, before the plea agreements, have Royer claiming he went to Pakistan around 2000, where he reportedly assisted Lashkar-i-Taiba with communications and media issues.  Interestingly, Mr. Royer appears to have served for some time with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as both a communications specialist and a civil rights coordinator, involved at times with various media affairs for CAIR.  This fact was reported by terrorism expert and author Daniel Pipes the day of the initial arrests, but has received little attention in the mainstream media.  A review of CAIR’s national website revealed no mention in their news brief or news release sections covering these latest developments in the case.  CAIR has been an outspoken institutional critic of many aspects of the Government’s counter-terrorism efforts; interesting that it now remains silent concerning Mr. Royer and his band of “paintballers.”    

Bill West retired as the Chief of the National Security Section for the INS in Miami, Florida and is now a consultant for the Investigative Project, a Washington DC-based counterterrorism research institute. 

Bill West is a retired INS/ICE Supervisory Special Agent who ran organized crime and national security investigations. He is now a counter-terrorism consultant and freelance writer.

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