Chicago media cover the “Sears Tower Plot”

As you can imagine with the local connection both major Chicago newspapers and all of the Chicago network affiliate television station morning news programs lead with the news from last evening of the men arrested in Miami who have been accused of plotting to attack some U. S. landmarks, notably the Sears Tower in Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune’s story included an interview with the Chicago police and a backgrounder on the Sears Tower:

WASHINGTON — FBI agents in an undercover sting operation arrested seven terrorism suspects in Miami on Thursday who allegedly were plotting to attack the Sears Tower in Chicago, the FBI headquarters in Miami and other U.S. buildings, officials said.

The suspects had “aspirations” but “no means” to attack the Sears Tower or other buildings, a senior federal law-enforcement source said.

The men were all Muslims who thought they were plotting “in conjunction with Al Qaeda” but they really were dealing with law-enforcement undercover agents, one law-enforcement official told The Miami Herald.

The men, who told neighbors in the Liberty City area of Miami that they were starting a children’s karate class at a warehouse, had been plotting for an undetermined amount of time, but their scheme was thwarted well before any attack could be carried out.

“They talked about belonging to an Islamic army. They wanted to raise an army in the U.S.,” a second senior law-enforcement official said Thursday. “But they didn’t have the means to do this.”

“There was no threat at all,” the senior federal law-enforcement source said, referring to the Sears Tower. Chicago police said the city is not on increased alert despite the news.

I found these latter quotes very interesting and I’m beginning to wonder if there’s a lot less to this story than meets the eye. Certainly, the network news coverage is thin enough that it suggests that to me. Here’s a snippet on the reaction from the local authorities:

Chicago police spokeswoman Monique Bond said the department had specific plans for a multiagency response to any attack or threat to the tower. She added that the city would hold a news conference Friday to discuss the arrests and alleged threats.

The Sun-Times coverage was significantly shorter and emphasized that those arrested in Miami had “no apparent ties to Al Qaeda”:

At least seven people were arrested Thursday after federal agents launched a raid in Miami on a group that allegedly plotted to attack the Sears Tower and government buildings in south Florida – and at least one reputed cell member had visited Chicago for intelligence gathering, law enforcement sources said.

“They were trying to collect information about the Sears Tower,” one source said. The Chicago Police Department was involved in the investigation through the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, according to the source.

The alleged terrorist cell discussed destroying government facilities in Miami, including an FBI building, and picked the Sears Tower, the tallest U.S. building, as a “high-profile target,” the source said.

No apparent ties to al-Qaida

The alleged terrorist cell was not close to carrying out any attacks, the source said. The source did not know the type of explosives the suspects allegedly planned to use, or the method of delivery.

Another source, who was in contact with agents in Miami as well as Chicago Police, told the Sun-Times that the suspects had only devised a plot on paper. Alleged cell members had tried to buy “supplies” from people who turned out to be working for the feds, the source said.

A federal law enforcement official told the Associated Press the alleged plotters were mainly Americans with no apparent ties to al-Qaida or other terrorist organizations. More details were to be released today.

I’ve heard conflicting reports on the connection of these apparently homegrown nogoodniks with foreign terrorists.

All of the Chicago major TV news outlets have video links on their sites. I haven’t taken a look at them and can’t comment. You’ll have to go over to the links to see what they’ve got (I’m guessing shots of the Sears Tower).

The ABC Chicago affiliate included a portion of a statement from the managers of the Sears Tower:

Managers of the Sears Tower, the nation’s tallest building, said in a statement that they speak regularly with the FBI and local law enforcement about terror threats and that Thursday “was no exception.”

“Law enforcement continues to tell us that they have never found evidence of a credible terrorism threat against Sears Tower that has gone beyond criminal discussions,” the statement said.

The coverage from the Chicago NBC affiliate had some interesting original reporting:

NBC5’s Anita Padilla reported that of the seven suspects arrested in Miami, five are U.S. citizens, one is a resident alien and one is an illegal immigrant, according to reports. One of the suspects is apparently from Chicago’s southeast side.

NBC5’s Phil Rogers reported that sources told him privately that city authorities knew about the Sears Tower plot on Wednesday, but workers in the tower said they were not informed until the story broke Thursday night.

“You never have any idea what’s going on, and you feel like, ‘OK, maybe it’s over. Things have subsided.’ But things always flare up,” worker Megan Kelly said. “And just when you start to feel like, ‘OK, maybe it’s safe. We don’t have to worry as much anymore,’ (this happens and) it makes you nervous again.”

The Chicago CBS affiliate carried the story produced by the Miami CBS affiliate.

FOX Chicago’s web site had a brief story:

Federal agents in Miami have arrested 7 people in connection with what’s being called a terrorist plot against the Sears Tower, as well as several buildings in Florida.

FBI agents swarmed a warehouse in the Liberty City area of Miami to make the arrests. The suspects are described as “radical” Muslims, and 5 of them are reportedly American citizens.

Agents in Chicago refused to comment in any detail in advance of a series of news conferences, scheduled tomorrow for Miami and Washington, D.C.

In Chicago, a spokesperson for the Sears Tower’s owners says the company regularly talks with agents who investigate terrorism threats, and has never found any evidence of a credible threat that went beyond criminal discussion.

At the Sears Tower Thursday night, people who work in the building told FOX News Chicago’s Lilia Chacon that reports of an alleged attack plot were disturbing, but didn’t expect it to affect their routine.

Said one, “It’s a shame, yeah … it’s not going to stop me from going up there, though.”

In the words of another, “You never know what’s going to be next … the New York Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve Bank, you never know.”

FOX News Chicago will work through the evening and early morning with the resources of the FOX News Channel. Stay tuned to FOX Chicago for updates on our news, beginning at 5:00 am.

With the exception of the CBS Chicago affiliate all of the Chicago major newspapers and TV station web sites wrote their own coverage of the stories—none used the wire service copy unedited.

I expect there’ll be more coverage after the official statement scheduled for this morning here and in Washington.

8 comments… add one

  • Young men seem to want to belong to a gang. For a young muslim male, al-qaeda is the meanest toughtest gang around. “My gang is meaner than your gang”. A lot of fantasising goes on. The FBI’s sting operation entrapment of stupid kids makes everyone think it’s all under control. The FBI intervened at the wrong point in the induction process.

    The best, most single-minded wannabe gang members may get singled out by the local imam who really does have connections to “the means.” Then the play-actor wannabe gang members suddenly find themselves in a real gang with more than enough means to blow up people.

    As long as young muslim males think it’s cool to blow up western infidels, there will be a way to match up the “stupid kids” with the puppet masters who fund and direct from behind the scenes. You want to catch the puppet masters, not the stupid wannabe kids.

  • Worse yet, abu al-fin, if the reports are correct those arrested had no contacts with “puppet masters”. The FBI infiltrator was as close as they came.

  • Scary. I know people who work in the Sears Tower, and they are a little freaked.

  • expat

    I read somewhere that these guys were black, not from a Muslim immigrant background. So the question is what converted them to Islam. And when you connect that to the radical imams serving as prison chaplains, that is having access to young men who already have problems, it certainly is a phenomenon worth studying. Were these guys who failed the first selection as jihadis? I agree with the gang theory of Abu, but why did black Americans choose the Islamist variant?

  • Something like 5% of African Americans (~2 million) are Muslims. It’s seen as the religion of black nationalism.

  • expat

    I was aware of the Black Muslims, although I didn’t know the number. Still, my question about how they became attracted to terrorism remains. Are the Black Muslims as a group becoming more radicalized? Or are there specific recruiting drives for jihadis among non-Muslims? Does recruiting come from the indigenous groups, or are foreign imams involved? Did the Malcolm X movie awaken interest in Islam? I haven’t seen much info on this, but I guess we will learn more as the case unfolds.

  • With the large number of radical imams being financed by Saudi (and other Gulf oil) money worldwide I suspect that there’s more radicalization, particularly among recent converts, worldwide.

  • henry

    Top level security is preseent at the Sears Law Building Irvine CA. 24hour monitored and digital motion detection. The premises include server co-location and the offioes of Steven Sears Attorney. Controlled entry underground parking in the building at 18 truman.

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