How Dangerous Was Tarek Mehanna, Homegrown Terror Suspect?

Tarek Mehanna's arrest is welcomed by commentators, but they also doubt his ability to cause harm

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On Wednesday, police arrested and charged 27 year-old Massachusetts resident Tarek Mehanna for plotting with other suspects to shoot up a shopping mall, kill U.S. soldiers and assassinate two U.S. government officials. The plot had apparently been abandoned before the arrest when the group failed to obtain necessary weapons. It marks the second arrest for Mehanna, a pharmacy-school graduate and Muslim blogger who was originally picked up nearly a year ago for making false statements to the FBI. Mehanna's defense attorney argued that his client was only being charged this time as punishment for refusing to act as a government informant. Writers who analyzed the news largely concluded that while the arrest was good for American security overall, Mehanna wasn't an imminent threat.

  • The Sting of Rejection At Newsweek's Declassified blog, Mark Hosenball notes that there is a certain irony to be found in the case, as Mehanna and his friends had sought out jihadist leadership and al-Qadea support from abroad only to be turned away for not fulfilling the proper criteria of experience and Arab ethnicity. It was partially due to this failure that they abandoned their plans for attacks. Still, Hosenball said the news was as a grim reminder that "Al Qaeda sympathizers are very much alive and well inside the country -- even if their links to Al Qaeda's central leadership overseas are tenuous or non-existent."
  • Some Terror Cell mocked Hot-Air's Ed Morrissey. He thinks that all Mehanna was all bark, no bite--brazenly eager to discuss terrorist activity but unable to actually follow through on his words. As he puts it:  "This seems like a slow-motion terror operation.  Mehanna had been at it for seven years without actually taking any action other than conspiring and blogging…That’s not a sleeper cell, it’s a coma cell"
  • The Ones That Got Away On his Forward Movement blog, Jules Crittenden also jeers at Mehanna for failing to obtain guns (guns!) in the U.S. Yet he thinks that people are largely becoming too complacent towards the threat posed by home-grown terrorists."It isn’t so much ones they catch I’m worried about," he explains "It’s the ones they haven’t yet. The ones they might not catch in time."
  • Never Saw it Coming Boston Glope reporter John R. Ellement rounds up opinions from Mehanna's neighbors in the posh town of Sudbury, many of whom had positive opinions of the suspect and his family, and were consequently surprised by the news. The article concludes with a lone voice of dissent from someone who never knew Mehanna or his family personally, but neveretheless thought the arrest was appropriate given the times: "We have to worry about homegrown people,’’ he said. “you don’t understand it, but it does happen."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.