The arrest in Hawaii late Monday of a New Yorker on charges he lied about plans to travel to Pakistan is another example of what investigators fear is a growing terror problem: the homegrown extremist bent on attacking the United States.
Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, 21, a U.S.-born citizen of Palestinian ancestry, will be sent back for his arraignment in Brooklyn on charges he lied to the FBI when questioned about why he wanted to travel to Pakistan and later to join the U.S. Army. He faces 8 years in prison if convicted. Investigators said Shehadeh really wanted to link up with the Taliban in Pakistan.
Tuesday, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the Staten Island man's case was another in a recent number of arrests that involved suspects either born or raised in the United States, who become captivated by extremist views.
"It's an example of a homegrown [suspect] who wants to do us harm," said Kelly, noting the June arrests of two New Jersey men on charges they conspired to travel to Somalia to link up with terrorist groups there.
Shehadeh came to the attention of the joint Terrorism Task Force - an FBI and NYPD unit - in a wider investigation, said law enforcement officials. Then, based on an analysis of websites and computer activity conducted by the special NYPD cyber intelligence unit, Shehadeh became a subject of greater interest, according to court records and law enforcement sources who did not want to be identified.
Although Shehadeh gave innocent reasons to the FBI for his planned travel to Pakistan in 2008, federal investigators said he wanted to join the Taliban.
When Pakistani officials denied him entry, Shehadeh returned to the United States and visited the armed forces recruiting office in Times Square in an effort to join the army, according to a federal criminal complaint filed in Brooklyn.
Shehadeh initially told the FBI he wanted to join the military for benefits and career opportunities, but he later admitted he lied and really intended to desert the army if stationed in Iraq so he could fight Americans, the complaint stated.
Shehadeh created a number of websites devoted to jihadist ideology and featured speeches by known al-Qaida leaders like Ayman al-Zawahri, according to the criminal complaint.
Kelly said the al-Qaida terror threat remains multifaceted.
"You can't take you eye off the ball," Kelly said. "There are three layers: al-Qaida central, al-Qaida surrogates and homegrown."