The Newark Star-Ledger examines the investigation that led to the arrests of alleged homegrown terrorists Carlos Eduardo Almonte and Mohamed Mahmood Alessa nine days ago at Kennedy Airport in New York. The paper says the men had been observed by law enforcers since 2006, when the FBI received a tip on its website that read, “Every time they access the internet, all they look for is all those terrorist videos about the Islam holly war and where they kill U.S. soldiers and other terrible things … They keep saying that Americans are their enemies, that everybody other than Islamic followers are their enemies, and they all must be killed.”
At first, investigators were willing to dismiss Almonte and Alessa as a couple of angry young men well within their right of free speech to criticize America and adore the likes of Osama bin Laden. Alessa, 20, who holds dual U.S.-Jordanian citizenship, lived in North Bergen and had a troubled youth, going from school to school, according to one school official. Almonte, 24, of Elmwood Park was born in the Dominican Republic and grew up as a Catholic, converting several years ago to Islam against the wishes of his father. Through 2006 and into 2007, there was a serious debate inside federal and state law enforcement about the seriousness of the threat posed by the two young men. Then investigators learned Alessa and Almonte had both traveled to Jordan in February 2007.