The New York Times today attempts to decipher the odd case of a New York City teenager, Tashnuba Hayder, who was arrested then exiled because the F.B.I. had mysteriously identified her as a potential suicide bomber. The story of how it happened – how Tashnuba, the pious, headstrong daughter of Muslim immigrants living in a Queens neighborhood of tidy lawns and American flags, was labeled an imminent threat to national security – is still shrouded in government secrecy. After nearly seven weeks in detention, she was released in May on the condition that she leave the country immediately. Only immigration charges were brought against her. Federal officials will not discuss the matter.
But as the first terror investigation in the United States known to involve minors, the case reveals how deeply concerned the government is that a teenager might become a terrorist, and the lengths to which federal agents will go if they get even a whiff of that possibility. It is not known what prompted the authorities to investigate Tashnuba, who says the accusations are false. But in a series of interviews – her first – she said the government had apparently discovered her visits to an Internet chat room where she took notes on sermons by a charismatic Islamic cleric in London, a sheik who has long been accused of encouraging suicide bombings. An F.B.I. agent, posing as a youth counselor, first confronted Tashnuba in her bedroom, going through her school papers and questioning everything from her views on jihad to her posterless walls, she said.