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Crazy or not, FBI acted properly in nabbing Chicago terrorist
By Ray Hanania – He was only 22 and authorities are saying he was a little out-of-his-mind. But Sami Samir Hassoun could have become one of the most sinister terrorists to strike in America, having placed what he thought was a bomb in a garbage can at an intersection filled with partygoers and baseball fans. Instead, the FBI had been on to his angry threats to do something violent, threatening a variety of violent acts from assassinating Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to poisoning the city’s water source. But Hassoun, a Lebanese American, settled on placing a bomb in the middle of a large crowd, dropping the makeshift backpack bomb in the public garbage can and then setting the timer to explode from 30 minutes to 20 minutes, because he thought it would be more effective.
Before leaving the spot, he stood there and tried to count the number of people who were walking by. The corner was so heavily trafficked, FBI officials said, that he gave up counting at 12 and then walked away with a man he thought had helped him carry out what would have been one of the most heinous terrorist acts since Sept. 11, 2001.
The FBI and the U.S. Justice Department are often pilloried for the way in which they handle suspected terrorists. But in the Hassoun case, they did everything right. And, they had the help and participation of members of the American Arab community.
They monitored the suspect for more than a year, after he was brought to the attention of the FBI by an informant who Hassoun had explained he wanted to do something so dramatic it would teach the City of Chicago a lesson.
The source, an American Arab who spoke fluent Arabic, was joined by two undercover FBI agents, who also spoke fluent Arabic and many believe are American Arabs, who grilled Hassoun about his intentions for months before promising to provide him with a powerful bomb.
The bomb they gave Hassoun was a fake with no explosives at all. But that didn’t stop Hassoun from pushing to carry out the attack. He thought about blowing up a building, but the agents said that would bring too much attention and resources and blow their cover. The garbage can in the center of hundreds of party goers at an intersection filled with nightclubs and bars only blocks from Wrigley Field, one of two of the city’s baseball stadiums.
The Hassoun case stands out as a text book example of how terrorism cases can be handled without fanning the usual flames of Islamophobia and racist hate of Arabs.
The FBI and Justice Department never identified Hassoun’s religion. The FBI and Justice Department stressed that the suspect was acting almost exclusive alone, with the exception of the three undercover agents who should be credited with saving the lives of scores of innocent people who would certainly have been killed had it been a real bomb.
And, the FBI and Justice Department stressed repeatedly that there were no indications that Hassoun had any times to foreign terrorists or international extremists.
All of those factors might have distracted the public away from the real threat to fan the flames of discrimination that continues to rage out of control as we round the corner to the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks.
The Hassoun case represents the beginning of what could be a turning point in how we handle terrorist threats. Involve more American Arabs who speak Arabic fluently and understand the nuances of more than 30 Arabic dialects that are involved.
And that means America can be a safer place, without starting another international war.
(Ray Hanania is a columnist with Creators Syndicate and a Chicago Radio Talk Show Host. He can be reached at www.RadioChicagoland.com.)
This post has already been read 18 times!
Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
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