On November 19, the New York Police Department arrested 27-year-old Jose Pimentel on charges of plotting to explode pipe bombs in New York City and the surrounding area. The next day city officials called a press conference to announce the NYPD’s great triumph in preventing terrorism by an alleged “al-Qaeda sympathizer” whom Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly described as “a total lone wolf.” It turns out, however, that Pimentel was far from a lone wolf. As in so many other proudly proclaimed victories against domestic terrorists, he appears to have been greatly assisted by a paid government informant. In fact, the New York Times reports that the informant’s role was so significant that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, itself no stranger to busting terrorist plots instigated largely by its own informers, chose to drop its own investigation into Pimentel despite repeated pleas for cooperation from the NYPD.
Assuming the police department’s allegations are true, there is little doubt that Pimentel, a convert to Islam who also went by the name Muhammad Yusuf, had a desire to commit terrorist acts. “Pimentel talked about killing U.S. military personnel returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly Marines and Army personnel,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. “He talked about bombing post offices in and around Washington Heights [the neighborhood on the Manhattan side of the George Washington Bridge] and police cars in New York City, as well as a police station in Bayonne, N.J.” Kelly further alleged that Pimentel, a native of the Dominican Republic and a naturalized American citizen who had lived much of his life in Manhattan, had spoken of traveling to Yemen for terrorism training, which he then intended to put to use in New York, and had attempted to contact the American-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. (Ultimately he neither made the journey to Yemen nor received a response from Awlaki.) Kelly said Pimentel had maintained a website that included discussions of how to make bombs and was caught in the act of assembling one.
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Photo Jose Pimentel is arraigned at Manhattan criminal court, Nov. 20, 2011, in New York: AP Images