Update on the New York, New Jersey Bombings

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Many immediately cast off the recent NY-NJ bombings as yet another act of terrorism. In the wake of these bombings, “there [was] no evidence… of a terror connection” said NYC’s police commissioner, James O’Neill. As it turns out, Ahmad Khan Rahami, the main suspect in the bombings, has given US authorities and citizens “every reason to believe this was an act of terror” said New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio. In fact, Rahami’s own father, Mohammad Rahami, even contacted the FBI in 2014 over concerns of terrorism.

“In August 2014, the FBI initiated an assessment of Ahmad Rahami based upon comments made by his father after a domestic dispute that were subsequently reported to authorities,” the bureau released in a statement.

“The FBI conducted internal database reviews, interagency checks, and multiple interviews, none of which revealed ties to terrorism,” it said.

Despite FBI preliminary investigations, Rahami was not on any government watchlist according to a US official. However, he definitely should have been given the fact that he had spent weeks at an Islamist seminary in Pakistan and taken extensive trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last five years. It was reported that in 2011 that Rahami had spent three weeks in Kuchlak, a known hub for Islamic extremist groups such as the Taliban. Regardless of Rahami’s visits to high-risk areas and his arrest in 2014 for a stabbing and gun procession, Rahami was able to avoid government suspicion.

Unfortunately, Rahami’s father’s suspicions were finally confirmed when Rahami was caught following the bombings on September 19th with a notebook filled with radical ramblings. This notebook made references to “Brother Osama Bin Laden” and Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Al-Qaeda operative who was killed in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen.

Rahami was initially only charged with five counts of attempted murder of a police officer and two second-degree weapon charges. He has since racked up four additional counts including terrorist charges for using “weapons of mass destruction” and “bombing a place of public use.” US authorities said that Rahami is “directly linked” to the explosions and bombs in NY and NJ. Convictions of such charges would put Rahami behind bars for life.

Despite the substantiality of the charges, it is possible that evidence could be thrown out for being illegally obtained in this case. Federal judges have denied the request of public defenders to be appointed to represent Rahami under the argument that Rahami “had not officially been arrested by federal authorities.”

“It is outrageous that Mr. Rahami has been in custody for a week yet has been denied the right to have an attorney visit him to confirm his condition and protect his constitutional rights,” said Udi Ofer, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s NJ Chapter.

However, it seems unlikely that Rahami will ever walk free given his now “direct link” to charges of terrorism and attempted murder.

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Michael Vaks

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