Feb 21, 2006

Toledo Terror And "The Trainer"

Left: Terror suspect Wassim I. Mazloum being led from the courthouse in Toledo, courtesy of FOX News

(Toledo, OH) Perhaps lost amidst the startling indictments of three Toledo area men today on terrorism charges was the mention of a fourth man, who was identified as an informant nicknamed "The Trainer" in court documents.

A Justice Department statement today indicated that the informant "has been cooperating since the beginning of this investigation and acting on behalf of the government."

Very few clues can be derived from the indictments; "The Trainer" is described as "a US citizen...not named as a conspirator herein," who "has a US military background, and, in 2002, was solicited by [defendant] el-Hindi to assist in providing security and bodyguard training."

Who is this unnamed "trainer?"

The Justice Department indictments imply that the defendants sought out "The Trainer," but it seems odd that they would just "happen" to seek out an ex-US military man any more than they would just "happen" to seek out a butcher, a doctor, or a blogger. Just dumb luck on the part of the alleged terrorists?

This, to me, seems unlikely.

One theory of "The Trainer" is that he is a terrorist-turned-informant being used by counter-terrorism agencies to ferret out terrorist cells, trading his knowledge of terror cells for freedom.

In Mafia circles, "The Trainer" might be called a rat.

There is also speculation, though, that "The Trainer" is a trained US operative who is seeking out potential terrorists and enticing them across the line into criminal behavior.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales did not tip his hand in prepared remarks read before the press today, staying close to the script. He repeatedly cited "ongoing investigations and criminal cases" as a reason to defer specific questions about the investigation of the accused men.

And well he should; if indeed there are active terror cells, perhaps it is best that we are kept in the dark on the investigative end.

The indictment alleges that one man, Mohammad Zaki Amawi, twice threatened to kill or inflict bodily harm against President Bush while speaking with others in a plot that began in November 2004.

Amawi is a citizen of Jordan and the United States. The other men indicted in the plot are Marwan Othman El-Hindi, a US citizen born in Jordan; and Wassim I. Mazloum, who came to the US from Lebanon in 2000.

It will be interesting if the trials of the three men accused of terrorism will be open to the public, or if they will be carried out behind closed courtroom doors. Will we also see that these suspects claim entrapment by "The Trainer" and his handlers?

Or will the identity of "The Trainer" be the subject of articles 50 years down the road, when documents containing his name are unsealed?

Addendum, 9:40 PM: The Akron Beacon-Journal has an excellent article on the families of the suspects. Kudos to AB-J for getting this out so fast.

Addendum, 9:55: WLS-TV in Chicago is reporting that the accused three men may have set up a 2-man terrorist cll in the Chicago area, claiming that the "terror ring leaders had planted two operatives in Chicago who were being seasoned to help execute the deadly attacks on American soldiers."

Addendum, 11:11 PM: Time Magazine has a story online now; here's the important bits on "The Trainer":

A retired U.S. Special Forces soldier helped the FBI to uncover an alleged nascent terror cell in Toledo, Ohio, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney in Cleveland Thomas Getz. Three men, two U.S. citizens originally from Jordan and one U.S. resident from Lebanon, had asked the former U.S. commando for help in coordinating "jihad training exercises," according the indictment. But what the suspects didn't know, was that the retired soldier was working with investigators all along.

Identified in court papers only as "the Trainer," he earned the trust of the three men because, says Getz, "he was from the Muslim community." Getz would not say if "the Trainer" is of Arab descent or a long-time Muslim but said that he had cooperated voluntarily with the government from the beginning of the investigation going back at least to November 2004 and he was "acting on behalf of the (U.S.) government" the entire time


Anonymous said...

The Trainer is Deep Throat.

Just guessing, though.

historymike said...

I half-expected that one.

Do said...

Just by virtue of this statement: a US citizen...not named as a conspirator herein," who "has a US military background, and, in 2002, was solicited by [defendant] el-Hindi to assist in providing security and bodyguard training." it would seem that 'The Trainer' is someone that should be in protective custody. I'm sure that there weren't that many people that applied for his job that El-Hindi would be confused as to who is being referred to. 'The Trainer' is probably one that should be very aware of his surroundings since his identity is most likely known to the defendants, just not the public.

I'm going to hope that these three men did NOT do what they are accused of. Voluntary ignorance will let me sleep better. Especially since one of the def's lived way too close for comfort.

It's also well known that most larger cities are 'home base' for various 'cells' comprised of less than welcome individuals. But once again Toledo is back in the news...

historymike said...

Good points, Do, and I too hope that this turns out to be overstated and the men are not part of a terror cell.

But - if they are, then the world is slightly safer. Maybe.

If the feds can prove the items in the indictment, it will be hard to see how these men can demonstrate this was a "misunderstanding."

There is a part of me that always wants to see the good in people, but I am having trouble on this one.

-Sepp said...

From what I understand, "the trainer" is an ex-army officer and a muslim which may explain why they would hold trust in him. One of the perps mother was just on tv saying that her son DID talk about his activities and was dismissed as "just talk". These guys have been under observation for well over a year and had intel gathered from an informant. I'm doubting that the feds are simply jumping in with cold feet and making guesses here.

Mark W Adams said...

Mike! You're doing journeyman's work here, great job!

To me, the feds really don't have a lot here, kind of a weak case with only the downloading of a video as the overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. But it probably is enough to put these guys away for 5 to 10 or so, barring a plea bargain.

One of these guys is going to turn on the others and cut a deal. That is if he can make the feds believe they did more than watch a training film.

My guess is that one of the other guys will lay out in intricate detail all the threats that Amawi made against POTUS as well as anything else he might know of Amawi's plans in exchange for his own hide.

They all strike me as rank amateurs, not true Jihadists, and will not stick together. El-Hindi, who's the other American citizen and will have family pressure to cooperate, seems the likeliest turncoat.

What I like about this thing is that the old fashioned "law enforcement approach" in the pre-9/11 mold: good police work without warrantless wiretaps, without data mining, without torture, without wisking them away to a secret prison camp for interrogation; results in not only their capture but actual charges leading to a trial.

That's how it supposed to be done in America.

-Sepp said...

"They all strike me as rank amateurs, not true Jihadists"...sure Mark, but how many real jihadists have you run into? How much training does one need to wear a suicide vest? These guys all had the ability and the opportunity and were taking the steps to become vetran jihadists. The fact that they were plain sloppy is a moot point had it not been for an informant.

historymike said...

You and I were on the same page, Mark; I was writing about the Keystone Kops-esque manner in which these men allegedly acted when you made your comments.

Agreed Sepp - it only takes one idiot to kill a lot of people.