Over the last five years, the U.S. government has quietly released more than 400 people convicted on international terrorism-related charges, The Intercept reports. Some were deported to other countries following their prison terms, but a large number of convicted terrorists are living in the United States. The release of people convicted on terrorism-related charges with little if any monitoring by law enforcement might suggest that U.S. government officials believe they can be fully rehabilitated after short prison terms. A more likely explanation is that many of these so-called terrorists weren’t particularly dangerous in the first place.
Among them is one of the Herald Square bombers, who plotted to attack the New York subway in 2004. Shahawar Matin Siraj and James Elshafay, egged on by informant Osama Eldawoody, conspired to plant bombs at the Herald Square subway station. They drew rough plans on napkins, surveilled the station, and discussed how they might acquire explosives. It was all talk. The two alleged bombers took different paths after their arrests. Siraj fought the charges and went to trial, where he was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He won’t be released until 2030. Elshafay pleaded guilty and received a comparably modest sentence of five years in prison and three years of supervised release. He’s been a free man since January 28, 2009.