A chilling new scenario reveals there may be a more sinister motive after this month’s arrest of an American Airlines mechanic, accused of sabotaging the navigational system on a Miami-to-Nassau flight about to take off in July.
The initial story after the arrest of Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, 60, a longtime airline employee, was that he had disabled the plane, carrying 150 passengers, to earn some overtime. But then Alani said he was angry over stalled union contract negotiations.
Another airline mechanic found Alani’s alleged handiwork — a loosely connected tube in front of the nose gear underneath the cockpit that had been deliberately obstructed with hard foam. At the time, Alani’s reasoning for sabotage sounded like a dangerous way to make some extra cash. American Airlines quickly fired him, and rightly so.
Now, there is speculation that Alani’s story might have been an attempt to mislead authorities. At a bond hearing Wednesday in Miami, prosecutors suggested to a federal judge that Alani may have links to ISIS. After his arrest, investigators with the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force were called in. They found a violent ISIS video on Alani’s phone, along with an article about the Lion Air plane brought down by a malfunctioning navigational system in 2018. Since then, investigators say, Alani lied about taking a trip to Iraq in March to visit his brother, and that he told a co-worker that his brother was a member of ISIS and/or had been kidnapped by the terrorist group.
Magistrate Judge Chris McAliley described the new information as “very disconcerting” and denied Alani bond, ruling he posed a danger to the community and was a flight risk. Absolutely. Alani, hired in 1988 by American, lives both in Miami and California and travels freely between the two.
Alani’s assistant public defenders accused prosecutors of blowing routine events in Alani’s life out of proportion. Indeed, his side must be heard.
The case highlights the difficulty in identifying and thwarting domestic terrorists, real or suspected. Just before the most recent anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, President Donald Trump issued an executive order allowing the State and Treasury departments to target leaders of suspected terror groups and their affiliates “without having to tie terrorist leaders to specific acts.” We would urge the administration to broaden the term “terror groups” to include domestic white-nationalist organizations. They are growing exponentially in this country, their devotees behind some of the bloodiest, most hateful mass shootings this country has experienced recently.
In his pursuit of Muslim terrorists, the president has turned a blind eye to this other reality, unfortunately, even though, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 2018 was the fourth straight year of growth for hate groups in this country, a 30% increase overall.
Following the president’s lead, the FBI has been slow to call such violence “domestic terrorism,” much less devote resources to thwart it. They both do so at our peril.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE MIAMI HERALD