During a press conference in New York this weekend, officials alleged that a Manhattan man has been plotting a series of terrorist attacks across the city using homemade bombs. The FBI, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with it.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said on Sunday that Jose Pimentel, a Dominican Republic-born American citizen residing in upper Manhattan, had been arrested a day earlier and charged with a series of terrorism-related crimes following a police investigation. According to city officials, Pimentel was plotting to use pipe bombs to strike locales across the city in an onslaught of would-be crimes inspired by al-Qaeda insurgents.
The NYPD says that they spied on Pimentel for two years, conducting clandestine surveillance and meeting with informants to infiltrate the man’s daily life and get insight into the alleged attacks. When they raided his Manhattan apartment on Saturday, Kelly said that a camera installed in an informant's dwelling had clued the Police Department in to the fact that Pimentel was working at that moment on a weapon.
Pimentel was drilling holes in a piece of elbow piping when the cops stormed the apartment. According to the NYPD, Pimentel was making a bomb because he had recently acquired a discounted clock and Christmas lights.
“We had to act quickly yesterday because he was in fact putting this bomb together, drilling a hole, and it would have been not appropriate for us to let him walk out the door with the bomb,” Kelly told reporters on Sunday.
During the two years of NYPD-sanctioned surveillance, the Department had repeatedly approached the FBI about opening an investigation of their own in order to pursue terrorism-related charges against Pimentel. Maybe the FBI didn’t feel threatened by the Christmas decorations — or maybe it was something else — but despite their ongoing pleas, the FBI refused to take on the case.
Sources speaking to both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal tell the papers that the Federal Bureau of Investigation declined to become involved in the manhunt for Pimentel because they had “issues” with the case that the NYPD was building. According to sources speaking under condition on anonymity, the FBI reviewed the evidence that the NYPD provided in hopes of establishing federal terrorism charges, though the FBI remained unconcerned.
In an AP report Monday morning, an FBI source says that Pimentel lacked “predisposition or the ability to carry out the plot.”
This marks the second time this year that federal authorities passed on terrorism-charges that the NYPD was pressuring them to follow through on.
It also marks the arrival of a welcoming distraction for Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD as outlets across the world report on the mishandling of Occupy Wall Street protesters — only the latest scandal that the city’s officials have engrossed themselves in.
As RT reported on Friday, at least six accredited journalists were arrested by the NYPD last week for covering the Occupy Wall Street protests, despite having press credentials issued by the Police Department themselves. Other journalists reported being struck by the fists and batons of NYPD officers and peaceful protesters were shown being dragged away from demonstrations in New York, bruised and bloody. Two months into the Occupy movement, a series of assaults and raids on protesters continues and city officials seem unapologetic.
At a press conference on Thursday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg discredited the movement, calling protesters violent and warning them that they would be arrested for participating in the same behavior that his own officers were pursuing. At a live presser in the afternoon broadcast amid the massive November 17 Day of Action, Bloomberg and Kelly stood side-by-side as they said that Thursday’s events had accumulated to only a few hundred protesters rallying on the streets. Other city officials, however, put the toll a little higher — at around 30,000.
The handling of the growing demonstrations has exposed the NYPD as brutal and unhelpful, yet is only the latest poor representation of the force brought to light by the media. RT has continued to follow an ongoing Associated Press investigation that has revealed that the Police Department has installed “ethnic spies” into Muslim-majority neighborhoods across the five boroughs in recent years to infiltrate the homes, community centers, barbershops, delis, restaurants and mosques of those adhering to the Islam religion. Bloomberg has defended the surveillance, saying that it is for the safety of the community as a whole — including those Muslims being monitored without their own knowledge — but Muslim leaders have since fired back, ordering those in the community to sever ties with the NYPD and not to discuss personal information with anyone they are unfamiliar with, citing the installation of spies and informants into the community without any reasonable cause to conduct a search.
Whether or not the evidence the NYPD claims they have collected link Pimentel to terrorism crimes, it should not come as a surprise then that the Department has been monitoring him all along. In recent months, it has been made known that such surveillance has been conducted across the Muslim community. Aside from the spies installed by the NYPD in those neighborhoods, the City of New York has over 2,000 surveillance cameras installed across Manhattan.
While there is little doubt that the NYPD did keep a watchful eye over Pimentel, his attorney agrees that the case being built by the City seems unlikely.
"I don't believe that this case is nearly as strong as the people believe," lawyer Joseph Zablocki tells reporters. "He has this very public online profile. … This is not the way you go about committing a terrorist attack."
The police also believe that Pimentel worked as a “lone wolf” and had no conspirators in the alleged attacks, though insist that his personal website linked to bomb-making discussions in the English-language magazine Inspire, which was published in part by Muslim militant Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen that was executed in a drone strike in Yemen earlier this year. The NYPD claims that the killing of al-Awlaki had caused Pimentel to expedite his alleged terror plans.