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Update on Ohio Arrests:

The Associated Press reports that the two men will face an additional charge for committing acts supporting terrorism. Meanwhile, the Columbus Dispatch provides more information on their arrest and their defense:

The men were stopped while driving for failure to signal a turn Tuesday after a clerk at a RadioShack called deputies to report the two acting suspiciously while buying three disposable, prepaid TracFones. The men bought six more phones from a Wal-Mart at the same strip mall near I-77.

Inside the car, deputies found nearly $11,000 in cash, a dozen cell phones, instructions on accessing and altering computerized passenger and baggage information from Royal Jordanian Airlines, and some airline-flight manifests.

Assistant Prosecutor Susan Vessels accused the men of "very serious crimes" in detailing the suspicious items found in their car and their admission that they bought 600 cell phones in the last month and were after another 300 on a trip south from Dearborn, Mich.

Attorneys for the two men said authorities are overreacting to a legal purchase of phones by two men who are working for a legitimate businessman. He resells the cheap phones at a profit and has been cleared of any terrorism links by the FBI, the attorneys said.

Agent Dawn Clenney, spokeswoman for the FBI in Detroit, could not confirm what the lawyers said. The Marietta case is a matter for Ohio lawenforcement agencies, she said.

The airline-related documents found in the car owned by Houssaiky's mother belong to her, the men's attorneys said. She works for a company that provides ground support for Royal Jordanian Airlines and others at the Detroit airport, they said.

The attorneys suggested the men were stopped and arrested as targets of racial profiling.

UPDATE: Police are looking into more mass cell phone purchases here and here.

tefta (mail):
The attorneys suggested the men were stopped and arrested as targets of racial profiling. Perhaps they were stopped because of the description the clerk at Radio Shack gave authorities.
8.11.2006 9:23am
Ugh (mail):
Help me George W. Bush, you're my only hope.

[/Leia]
8.11.2006 10:11am
M (mail):
No need for any conflict between your version, tefta, and that given by the attorney- radio shack clerk calls the cops and says, "Some suspiscious looking darkies were in here buying a bunch of cell phones. Of course I did sell them, I'm paid party by commission, after all, but it looked pretty weird to me. The darkies are driving a white toyota. I suggest you come lock them up." That's a reconstruction, of course, but whether they are guilty or innocent, do you suspect that the Radio Shack clerk would have called them in if they'd not been suspiscious looking darkies?
8.11.2006 10:12am
Mongoose388:
"No need for any conflict between your version, tefta, and that given by the attorney- ....radio shack clerk calls the cops and says, "Some suspiscious looking darkies were in here buying a bunch of cell phones"

Could also have been :Some Middle-Easterners were here and they bought an unusual amount of cellphones at full retail price. Said they wanted to resell them.....
8.11.2006 10:19am
Mongoose388:
"The Abulhassan and Houssaiky families sat in the rear of the courtroom, holding laminated newspaper pages and scrapbooks that chronicled their sons' high-school football achievements"

Wonder if they played soccer and cricket like the English held terror suspects?
8.11.2006 10:21am
JRL:
"The attorneys suggested the men were stopped and arrested as targets of racial profiling."

If so, then it's about time.
8.11.2006 10:23am
Donald Kahn (mail):
JRL, thank you thank you thank you. If it is profiling, racial or otherwise, there should be more of it. This isn't fun and games, or dancing a (legal) minuet - as we are soon going to find out, I fear.
8.11.2006 11:20am
Ryan Waxx:

Some suspiscious looking darkies were in here buying a bunch of cell phones.


Darkies? Darkies?

Dude, people don't talk like that in real life, especially when reporting something to the police (when you presumably don't want to sound like a nut).

Perhaps you should do some more thinking and less fantasy-redneck-bashing.
8.11.2006 11:54am
subpatre (mail):
In real life, you can't resell RadioShack phones at a profit.
8.11.2006 12:27pm
JohnO (mail):
This reminds me of one of the Cheech and Chong movies (maybe "Next Movie") where Pee Wee Herman calls the cops on Cheech and Chong and, to get the cops motivated, ended his call with "I think they're Iranians."

One of the biggest struggles the criminal justice system will have over the next decade is what to do about the fact that most Muslims are not terrorists but most terrorists are Muslims.
8.11.2006 12:32pm
DirtCrashr (mail) (www):
I have a TracFon and and it's a huge pain in the butt to authorize, get running, add additional minutes, etc. The coding sequence is complicated and tedious. It appears to me it's at a rock-bottom price-point. You can buy them on-line and get air-time cheaper than at WalMart or Target, except then you need an address for shipping. I chose it because I'm cheap and hate cell-phones and that's how I got it - on-line.
The reception and sound quality is poor but I don't care, only use it to call my wife and tell her I'm coming back from the shooting-range or dirt-bike riding, and since she hates phones too, I'm usually calling our answering machine.
I don't see how anybody could make money off them legitimately, even if you send them back to Pakistan. Maybe they're easy to hack and re-program the EPROM or something?
8.11.2006 12:37pm
TruthInAdvertising:
"One of the biggest struggles the criminal justice system will have over the next decade is what to do about the fact that most Muslims are not terrorists but most terrorists are Muslims."

No, the struggle will be that not all Muslims are Arabs and not all Arabs are Muslims. We have people who want to rely on racial profiling, ignoring that a significant numbers of Arabs aren't even Muslims and are unlikely to be working for Osama or any other Muslim-oriented terrorist organizations.
8.11.2006 12:41pm
Cornellian (mail):
Attorneys for the two men said authorities are overreacting to a legal purchase of phones by two men who are working for a legitimate businessman. He resells the cheap phones at a profit and has been cleared of any terrorism links by the FBI, the attorneys said.

Reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons where Bart wanders into a mob hangout called "The Legitimate Businessman's Social Club."
8.11.2006 12:49pm
Mongoose388:
"No, the struggle will be that not all Muslims are Arabs and not all Arabs are Muslims. We have people who want to rely on racial profiling, ignoring that a significant numbers of Arabs aren't even Muslims and are unlikely to be working for Osama or any other Muslim-oriented terrorist organizations."

Amen to that. Most of the current batch in England are of Pakistani descent. Also, do the names Reed, Padilla, and Lind ring a bell? All non Arab converts seeking peace in Islam.
8.11.2006 12:54pm
Mongoose388:
"I have a TracFon and and it's a huge pain in the butt to authorize, get running, add additional minutes, etc. "

I wonder if its easy to convert into bomb triggering devices as in the current terror plot from England?
8.11.2006 12:56pm
JRL:

We have people who want to rely on racial profiling, ignoring that a significant numbers of Arabs aren't even Muslims and are unlikely to be working for Osama or any other Muslim-oriented terrorist organizations.


Like who? I seriously doubt there is anyone that would suggest we only look at Arab Muslims as potential terrorists to the exclusion of all others. I think what you're more likely to find is a sentiment that we shold spend more time looking at Arab Muslims, male, ages 18-44, then we should spend looking at 80 year old grandmothers.
8.11.2006 1:10pm
markm (mail):
I'm struggling with the concept of a business big enough to hire employees that works by buying something at retail and selling it at a profit...
8.11.2006 1:13pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Their attorney's explanation is pretty straightforward and will either quickly prove to be true, or not. Why not wait on developments before opining?
8.11.2006 1:29pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

Attorneys for the two men said authorities are overreacting to a legal purchase of phones by two men who are working for a legitimate businessman. He resells the cheap phones at a profit and has been cleared of any terrorism links by the FBI, the attorneys said.


And these "legitimate businessmen" apparently make it a habit to travel with $11,000 in cash and instructions on how to "access[] and alter[] computerized passenger and baggage information from Royal Jordanian Airlines."
8.11.2006 1:30pm
anonyomousss (mail):
i dont get it. as we all know, this is a war and the law-enforcement paradigm doesn't work, which is why everyone suspected of terrorism should have been shipped out to gitmo without any kind of public notice and held there as long as our commander-in-chief-for-life feels like it. why do ohio police and prosecutors hate america?
8.11.2006 1:32pm
JRL:
Generally speaking you are correct (though I know you're being a smart-@ss). These two, however, are US citizens,not as my Turkish friend Oytun would say "freiners" (foreigners).
8.11.2006 2:03pm
Hoosier:
"Inside the car, deputies found nearly $11,000 in cash, a dozen cell phones, instructions on accessing and altering computerized passenger and baggage information from Royal Jordanian Airlines, and some airline-flight manifests."

Let's not jumpt to conclusions. I mean, I have some odd things in my car. although not $11K in cash,of course. Or a dozen cell phones. Or instructions for altering baggage and passenger information on comercial airliners.

But I do have some old ankle-weights in the trunk. So this could have happened to me.
8.11.2006 2:44pm
te (mail):
I agree with the poster above that the two are obviously guilty of something or they would never have been arrested.

We should execute them before some smart-mouthed lawyer comes up with a way to get them out of jail.

We are at war, after all.
8.11.2006 3:01pm
Steve P. (mail):
And these "legitimate businessmen" apparently make it a habit to travel with $11,000 in cash and instructions on how to "access[] and alter[] computerized passenger and baggage information from Royal Jordanian Airlines."
Please, read the article.

The airline-related documents found in the car owned by Houssaiky's mother belong to her, the men's attorneys said. She works for a company that provides ground support for Royal Jordanian Airlines and others at the Detroit airport, they said.

The cellphones are part of this reselling 'business' that has apparently already been investigated by the FBI and cleared. So, we have $11,000 in cash, which is pretty weird. Perhaps they smuggle coke in the phones? Drug dealing is one of many possible reasons for carrying lots of cash that is NOT terrorism.
8.11.2006 3:02pm
Preferred Customer:

Steve P.:
Drug dealing is one of many possible reasons for carrying lots of cash that is NOT terrorism.


So is, e.g., tax evasion.
8.11.2006 3:12pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

The airline-related documents found in the car owned by Houssaiky's mother belong to her, the men's attorneys said. She works for a company that provides ground support for Royal Jordanian Airlines and others at the Detroit airport, they said.


The brother claimed also that the paperwork belonged to their mother who was training with the Aircraft Service International Group. To believe their story we would have to believe that (a) ASIG allows their employees to take copies of such sensitive information home with them and (b) the mother of someone traveling with $11,000 in cash, 600 cellular phones to be resold "overseas," and who lied to the police about why they were being purchased just "happened" to leave them in the car with them rather than hanging on to it to use for her training.
8.11.2006 3:37pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Addendum to the above, the suspects had purchased 600 cellular phones in the last month but had about a dozen on them when arrested.
8.11.2006 3:44pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
I think we need more facts before any of us can judge what these two men were doing. Unlike some of the prior arrests, these two suspects were not caught on tape saying something incriminating. The explanations from the defendants for their behavior are coming out, and, if BS, the falsity will be easy enough to prove. Also, I have my doubts that the local police and ADA in Ohio have much experience in accurately identifying terrorist activity. Let's see if the FBI gets involved and wants to bring federal charges.
8.11.2006 3:46pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think that part of their problem is going to be that, sure, the traffic stop was pretextual, but cops do that thousands of times a day across this country. I was pulled over at 3 a.m. in the morning on just such a pretext, when the real reason was obviously to check for DUI. What was really humorous was that a couple of weeks later I followed another CO State Patrol officer go through precisely the same intersection, signalling to turn left even less than I had (I didn't know until then that you had to signal to turn left, even if you are in a left turn only lane).

Because such a failure to signal is, by itself alone, ticketable, it is apparently quite legal to pull someone over and talk to them on such a basis - and who can blame the cops for seeing a bunch of cell phones in the car, and asking further questions, etc.

I am not saying that I agree with this, but rather, if this sort of thing can be applied on a routine basis, thousands of times a day by the cops in this country, using it to track down terrorists is much more legitimate, IMHO, than when it is routinely used in some cities for "Driving While Black" stops.
8.11.2006 4:22pm
Shake-N-Bake (www):
Pretty obvious their legitimate businessman boss is a Cell Phone Gnome (close relative of the Underpants Gnome).

Step 1: Purchase Cell Phones
Step 3: Profits
8.11.2006 4:34pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
We currently lack the information to determine guilt or innocence.

One possible way to "buy phones at retail" in one of the cheapest countries in the world and make money would be to buy the phones for $20, pull the SIMs, unlock the phones, and sell them overseas for $40.

This would work if some TRACphones have SIMs. I know some are GSM phones.
8.11.2006 4:40pm
te (mail):
I am just wondering what is the "cut-off" for how much money I can carry around before I become suspicious?

I had $3,000 on me yesterday after I sold a camera lens.

When I go to gun-shows or other auctions, I usually take $10 or 15K with me - alot of people don't take plastic and don't want wire-transfer records leading to them.

And if 10 or 12 cell phones raise eyebrows, I usually take a couple of shotguns and 3 or 4 pistols whenever I drive over to the range.
8.11.2006 4:44pm
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx:
We should profile all Muslims especially converts. Islamism is the greatest threat to this nation and to ignore it for PC reasons is wrong and very dangerous. Just more evidence that liberals are more interested in making themselves feel good than taking the terrorist threat seriously.
8.11.2006 4:48pm
Erasmussimo:
The explanations offered by the defense are plausible. We should wait for further evidence before we jump to conclusions. Remember, innocent until proven guilty.

I am at a loss, though, to imagine how one could use 600 cell phones to commit an act of terrorism. Drop them from a tall building on pedestrians? Telephone people to death? It is plausible that they were intended as triggering mechanisms for a large number of IEDs in Iraq. But that would certainly require a lot of explosives.

Again, we're all speculating. Let's wait for more evidence.
8.11.2006 4:52pm
JRL:

I am just wondering what is the "cut-off" for how much money I can carry around before I become suspicious?


The answer is $10,000. http://www.fincen.gov/forms/fin104_ctr.pdf

Though it can be less if you're really shady.
http://www.fincen.gov/forms/f9022-47_sar-di.pdf
8.11.2006 5:00pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
The explanations offered by the defense are plausible.


I suppose one could believe that it's perfectly innocent for two men to travel from State to State with $11,000 cash, who bought 600 cellular phones, who initially lied to the police and later said that they were going to sell them to "some guy" who would sell them "overseas," and who just happened to have instructions for how to access and alter passenger and baggage information for a Middle Eastern airline with them in the vehicle at the time of the arrest. One could believe that, but I'm not sure if it would qualify as "plausible."
8.11.2006 5:07pm
Erasmussimo:
Thorley, if they were indeed on a mission to purchase lots of cell phones for resale overseas, then they would need a lot of cash. And they offered a plausible explanation for the airline information. Again, let's not jump the gun. Let's see how this pans out.
8.11.2006 5:21pm
BrianK (mail):

One possible way to "buy phones at retail" in one of the cheapest countries in the world and make money would be to buy the phones for $20, pull the SIMs, unlock the phones, and sell them overseas for $40


Even if that is so -- which I'm not qualified to judge -- wouldn't one make even greater profits by buying wholesale?
8.11.2006 5:24pm
Lively:
I am at a loss, though, to imagine how one could use 600 cell phones to commit an act of terrorism.

Google: cell phones set off bombs. Muslims have used cell phones as a detonating device in the past including the Madrid bombings.
8.11.2006 5:36pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Thorley, if they were indeed on a mission to purchase lots of cell phones for resale overseas, then they would need a lot of cash. And they offered a plausible explanation for the airline information.


Yes I suppose it's "plausible" if you believe that (a) Aircraft Service International Group as part of its post-9/11 employee training allows them to take home instructions on how to access and alter passenger and baggage information, (b) that an employee brought it home as part of her training but decided to keep it in her car rather then keep with her so she could study it, and (c) didn't bother to secure it to make sure that unauthorized personnel would not have access to it.
8.11.2006 6:05pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
So just out of curiosity, where do these college students who were engaged in a supposedly legitimate business get $11,000 in cash plus whatever they spent on the first 600 cellular phones?
8.11.2006 6:13pm
Erasmussimo:
Lively, you missed the sentence a bit later in my post in which I wrote, It is plausible that they were intended as triggering mechanisms for a large number of IEDs in Iraq. But that would certainly require a lot of explosives.

Thorley, your speculations on the procedures used by various airport service groups are just that: speculations. Why are you so eager to rush to judgement? Yes, this could be a terrorist plot, but the combination of the cellphones and the baggage system information makes no sense. If it were a terrorist plot, then obviously they were planning on smuggling something onto aircraft. Yet why would they want to smuggle 600 cellphones onto an aircraft? Perhaps it's just straight economic smuggling -- in which case these guys aren't terrorists. If you want to make the case that they are terrorists, you need to establish what they intended to do once they smuggled 600 cell phones onto an airplane. That's a lot of speculative work when it would be much easier to just give it a few days and wait for more evidence to emerge.
8.11.2006 6:17pm
Philistine (mail):

So just out of curiosity, where do these college students who were engaged in a supposedly legitimate business get $11,000 in cash plus whatever they spent on the first 600 cellular phones?


Why "plus"?

Isn't it more likely that (assuming they are legit), they got the $11,000 from reselling the 600 other phones?
8.11.2006 6:18pm
Shake-N-Bake (www):
So just out of curiosity, where do these college students who were engaged in a supposedly legitimate business get $11,000 in cash plus whatever they spent on the first 600 cellular phones?

Online poker? I hear it's all the rage with the kids these days.
8.11.2006 6:19pm
Erasmussimo:
I actually read the two news articles posted in the main story (what a concept!) and discovered two interesting tidbits:

First, there is a means by which hundreds of cellphones could be useful to terrorists: for making nearly untraceable international phone calls. So now I think that plausibility has been established that these guys could have been participating in a terrorist scheme.

Second, however, was this little item:

Task force officers following up a tip in May stopped a vehicle occupied by two men "of Middle Eastern descent" with 500 prepaid cell phones.

"After questioning the men, they were released," Booker said. "There was no law violated."


Looks like much the same thing. The two fellows are due for arraignment on Tuesday. I'm sure we can hold off the lynchmob until then, can't we?
8.11.2006 6:27pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Does anyone know if there are any special procedures required for purchasing cell phones from wholesale distributors? I've dealt with wholesalers for many different products in my lifetime. And I believe the only times I've ever had any sort of ID requirement (other than providing my resale number, for stuff I didn't want to pay California sales tax on), was when I needed to by hazardous chemicals for my car detailing business. Then all I had to do was provide a written purchase order for their files.
8.11.2006 6:29pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Oh, BTW: While the Nokia and Motorola phones that TracFone sells are incredibly cheap (check this offer), they are not technically disposable.

For a real disposable cell phone, check this article (tech-heads will get a real kick out of this)
8.11.2006 6:49pm
massachusetts republican (mail) (www):
Nearly four in 10 Americans admit having feelings of prejudice against Muslims living in the U.S. and are in favor of having Muslims carrying a special ID

22 percent of those surveyed said they would not like to have a Muslim as a neighbor.

31 percent of respondents said they would feel nervous if they noticed a Muslim man on their airplane flight

18 percent would feel nervous about a Muslim woman flying with them.
49 percent feel that Muslims living in the U.S. are loyal to this country.

34 percent believe American Muslims are sympathetic to the al-Qaida terrorist organization.

40 percent of respondents said they believe Muslims in the U.S. are not respectful of other religions

44 percent said Muslims are too extreme in their religious beliefs.

52 percent believe Muslims are not respectful of women.

39 percent said the U.S. should require Muslims to carry a special ID

57 percent believe Muslims should undergo more intensive security checks at airports.

39 percent said they "have at least some feelings of prejudice against Muslims.

59 percent said they did not, and 2 percent had no opinion.

Opinions are different, however, among Americans who are personally acquainted with a Muslim, the poll disclosed.
For example:

10 percent of those who know a Muslim said they would not want one as a neighbor.

24 percent believe Muslims should carry a special ID -- compared to 50 percent among those who don't know a Muslim.

Are these results MY fault? Are they the fault of other sites like Little Green Footballs or Jihad Watch?

I think it it's the fault of C.A.I.R and the speeches, rallies and public statements NOT made that are the cause of the feelings shown in this poll. Personally I think the vast majority of Americans want to live well and harmoniously with their American moslem brothers its just that we never see the American moslem community trying to reach out to us. They didn't attend that rally held in Washington specifically for them (you recall the one I am talking about...it was a flop).

C.A.I.R. will say this poll shows Americans are bigots…BULL! It's up to American Moslems to prove us wrong.
We want you too, really.

What do you think? Please comment.
-Steve
8.11.2006 8:04pm
Erasmussimo:
Steve, are you saying that it's the fault of Muslims that Americans have such beliefs?
8.11.2006 9:47pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Certain Muslims, perhaps.
8.12.2006 5:19am
BP:
I have lived in a suburb next to Dearborn my whole 47yr life and not one time do i recall the muslim community make a real effort to rally against terrorism.Yes they make the politically correct statement and before they finish their sentence they always throw in (but if Isreal didnt!).They never take any responsibility.They dont want to belong to mainstream america.The refuse to accept english as a language.As far as i am concerned until they make a real effort to condem radical islam and terror we shoul profile the hell out of them.
8.12.2006 11:36am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
I too have known quite a few Muslims. And perhaps my view is a bit skewed, as they all have been professionals and entrepreneurs, and virtually all from India, Pakistan, and Persia (they refuse to call themselves "Iranians"). And, as far as assimilation goes, you couldn't be more wrong, BP.

As for "taking a stand" against Islamofascist terrorism, well, I'd have to agree. But it seemed to me as though they were all to concerned with pursuing the "American Dream" to be too concerned about politics or world affairs, except has to how it might effect their businesses.
8.12.2006 12:30pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Wal-Mart takes checks and credit cards. If you're engaged in a legitimate business to buy from Wal-Mart and resell for a profit, there's no intelligent reason to carry around large sums of cash for those purchases.

Nick
8.12.2006 2:14pm
markm (mail):
The cell phones involved are loaded with special software that locks them to a single connection provider. They are a loss-leader for "premium-priced" service from this provider. One might be able to make a profit by buying them at $20, re-loading them with generic operating software, and re-selling them as normal phones that can connect to any provider you care to set up an account with. You won't get these phones at the loss-leader price from wholesalers or in large quantities, because the provider will try to prevent such diversions. I don't know how $20 compares to whole-sale prices of regular phones, but cell phone manufacturers would probably laugh at you if you tried to order a mere 600 phones direct from the factory. So it's possible that sending agents out to buy a few phones at a time is a reasonable procurement method.

NickM, I don't know whether it's "intelligent", but small businessmen do often deal in cash, even in 5-figure quantities, so I find it not too remarkable if the business owner would hand two trusted employees $12,000 to go buy 600 phones at $20. (Some had been spent already.) Immigrants are more likely to deal in cash than Americans who grew up with our banking and credit systems. And these people weren't just buying from Walmart, but from convenience stores and everywhere else they could find the one brand; these places might have a multitude of different policies concerning credit cards and checks, but every one of them takes cash.

I'm not saying there isn't something going on, but the publicly available information leaves room for reasonable doubt.
8.13.2006 12:31pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
A very good post, NickM. Back in the day, I certainly dealt in cash frequently, although only up to the low four figures. But some of my clients, with much larger, albiet still "small," businesses, carried huge bankrolls, and sometimes wouldn't even have change for a 50.
8.13.2006 1:30pm