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The University of South Florida-Tied Terror Case By: Joel Mowbray
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, November 09, 2007


In the terrorism case of two young Egyptian nationals and University of South Florida students arrested August 4 in South Carolina, fascinating twists and turns abound.

There’s a secret recording of the defendants discussing strategy shortly after their arrest. There’s a You Tube video in which one of the defendants gave instructions in Arabic on converting a remote-control toy into a bomb detonator, which one defendant allegedly told police was made to help people in Arab countries “defend themselves against the infidels invading their countries,” specifically “against those who fought for the United States.”

That’s not all. The father of one of the defendants, Youssef Megahed, all but pointed the finger at the co-defendant, Ahmed Mohamed, as the sole culprit, thus implying that his son was ignorant or duped.

And for good measure, Mohamed had stayed at a house formerly rented by convicted terrorism supporter and former USF professor Sami al-Arian.

Yet this compelling drama has drawn scant attention from the mainstream media. And while apologists might attempt to write off the paucity of coverage for various reasons, a slew of other terrorism cases since 9/11 have been met with the same media disinterest.

Following the arrests of Mohamed and Megahed on Aug. 4 with explosives in the trunk of their car—just seven miles from a naval weapons base in Goose Creek, SC—the Washington Post and New York Times made fleeting references. Each paper ran a brief overview from the Associated Press, with no independent reporting.

After the federal government indicted the two defendants on explosives charges and Mohamed on terrorism-related charges, the Times published not even 500 words—on page 14, no less. That was actually more aggressive than the Post, which discussed the indictment, but only in the context of the revelation of the You Tube video, which included a discussion on what might happen to the Internet giant.

Neither highly esteemed outlet reported the contents in the trunk of the vehicle the pair was driving: a box of .22-caliber bullets, gun powder, several gallons of gasoline, 20 feet of fuse, PVC piping and a drill.

Neither paper even mentioned perhaps the most amusing part of the case: the conversation between the two defendants in the back of the police car after the arrest. Not knowing an audio recorder was capturing their words, the two had the following exchange:

“Did you tell them there is something in them?” Mohamed asked, presumably referring to the PVC pipes.

“Water,” Megahed said.

“Water! Right? The black water is in the Pepsi.”

Barely explored by any mainstream media outlet is the possible connection between Mohamed and convicted terror supporter al-Arian. A week after the arrest, authorities searched a Florida home where Mohamed had been staying.

Only meaningfully investigated by bloggers, such as Michelle Malkin and Bryan Preston, is that the searched residence was leased in the 1990’s by the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE). Could this be coincidence? Of course. But it could also be more than that, and some digging could reveal far stronger connections between the men.

Even if the connections between Mohamed and al-Arian turn out to be attenuated, the search itself was noteworthy. Local TV stations captured video of authorities removing from the house PVC piping, something also found in the trunk of the suspects’ car.

Also left unreported by the Post and the Times was that Mohamed’s computer contained a file named “Bomb Shock,” which contained detailed information on TNT and C-4, a military-grade plastic explosive.

The prestigious papers further ignored the apparent animus that Mohamed harbors for the U.S. military. According to a court document, Mohamed “considered American troops, and those military forces fighting with the American military, to be invaders of Arab countries.”

When someone with seething anger toward the U.S. soldiers drives a car filled with explosive materials two states away to a naval station, how is that not major news?

Contrast that to the coverage afforded the recent mistrial in the government’s case against Holy Land Foundation, an alleged front for Hamas.

The mistrial was spun by most mainstream media outlets as a major defeat to U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The New York Times dedicated over 1,200 words in a page one story. The Washington Post was a bit more restrained, putting its coverage on page three, but the editorial page ran a stinging criticism by Georgetown professor David Cole of supposed government overreach.

Defenders of high-profile treatment of the Holy Land mistrial likely would assert the connection to 9/11, as the Islamic charity was shut down with great fanfare in October 2001.

But what about the case of Ali al-Timimi, a Muslim cleric who convicted in 2005 for urging his followers shortly after 9/11 to wage jihad against the U.S. The Times ran its coverage of the April 2005 conviction on page 12. The life sentence Timimi received that July was bumped back to page 21.

At least the Post placed the story about Timimi’s conviction on the front page. This might have owed to the local angle, though, as Timimi taught at an adult Islamic education center in Northern Virginia.

Yet three months later, the Post editorialized against Timimi’s life sentence, under the headline, “Sentenced for Speaking.” Stressing that none of his followers had actually waged successful jihad, the Post lamented, “[he] has been sentenced to life in prison for words that had little effect.”

So success is the barometer for importance? Does this mean continued media avoidance of thwarted terrorism on our soil until the government fails to stop an attack?


Joel Mowbray is author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America’s Security.


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