By: MassPrivateI –
The news had security analysts examining potential vulnerabilities in those relatively anonymous purveyors of bedazzled cellphone accessories, cheap jewelry, and names emblazoned on grains of rice.
And talk among kiosk vendors at the city’s shopping centers has turned toward trying to figure out where in Philadelphia Abror Habibov, 30, hung his shingle.
Federal agents arrested Habibov on Wednesday outside Jacksonville, Fla., and charged him alongside two other Brooklyn, N.Y., residents with plotting to recruit for, and support, Syrian operations of the terrorist group ISIS.
But the allegations against him and the nature of his business prompted some to draw comparisons to federal terrorism raids at immigrant-run jewelry kiosks at malls in Philadelphia and around the country in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.
On Friday, departing Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. pointed to Habibov’s case and a recent video in which the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabab threatened to attack the Mall of America in Minnesota as signs that shopping mall operators needed to beef up security.
“It would be the responsible thing for operators of these malls to increase their capabilities when it comes to keeping people safe who are just going about their everyday lives,” he said.
Lawyers for several of those questioned at the time said authorities were investigating whether the immigrant-operated shops were funneling money to overseas terror groups.
Some 30 employees across the country – including two workers at an Allentown-area Intrigue outlet – were eventually charged with immigration violations. But no terrorism-related charges were ever filed, prompting defense lawyers and some Muslim organizations to accuse the Justice Department of pursuing baseless claims and racial profiling.
“They’re questioning me about Osama bin Laden, if I knew him, or if I knew anybody like that,” Tariq Hussain recalled. “I was like, ‘Come on. How the hell do I know him?'”
In the weeks after Sept. 11, about 1,200 foreign nationals were detained by federal investigators. Most were of Arab or South Asian ancestry, charged only with immigration violations, and the vast majority are no longer in custody. Several businesses and Islamic charities have also been accused of funding terrorism.
The Justice Department had conducted its investigation in secret, refusing not only to acknowledge who was in custody but on what charges. That position had the support of the U.S. Supreme Court, which blocked an effort to open hearings to the public.
Nothing like a democratic & transparent justice system right? Can anyone say Patriot Act!
Article was first published at MassPrivateI.