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No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Case

On the kids from Texas busted in Michigan Friday and being held by local Michigan prosecutors for terror offenses because they bought too many cell phonesat a Wal-Mart:

The FBI said Monday it had no information to indicate that the three Texas men arrested with about 1,000 cell phones in their van had any direct connection to known terrorist groups. Also, a prosecutor in a separate Ohio case said he can't prove a terrorism link to two men arrested after buying large numbers of cell phones and will drop terrorism charges against them.

Another case of racial profiling gone wild.

Adham Abdelhamid Othman, 21, of Dallas, and Maruan Awad Muhareb, 18, and Louai Abdelhamied Othman, 23, both of Mesquite, Texas, were stopped by police Friday outside a Wal-Mart store in Caro, about 80 miles north of Detroit after employees became suspicious when they purchased about 80 cell phones.

Local prosecutors charged them with collecting or providing materials for terrorist acts and surveillance of a vulnerable target for terrorist purposes. The men told a magistrate Saturday that they were buying the phones for resale.

In Ohio:

....Authorities stopped the men on a traffic violation in Marietta, Ohio, on Aug. 8 and said they found airplane passenger lists and information on airport security checkpoints, along with $11,000 cash and 12 phones, in their car.

... Defense attorneys said the government had no evidence the phones were being used illegally and the men planned to resell the phones simply to make money. They also said the airport and airplane information were old papers left in the car by a relative who worked at an airport.

More on the FBI release:

The FBI issued a news release Monday saying there is no imminent threat to the bridge linking Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas. The release also said the FBI had no information indicating that the men, Palestinian-Americans living in Texas, had any direct links to any known terrorist groups or to the alleged plot to bomb trans-Atlantic jetliners that was announced in London last week.

Another Emily Litella "never mind" moment. Except for the traumatized kids whose reputations were smeared on national tv and in their home towns.

I'll be discussing the racial profiling aspect of the case with a conservative talk show host on KABC radio in Los Angeles at 8 am Pacific Time. Here's the listen live link.

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  • What the hell WERE these kids doing with the phones? They were clearly up to no good. No there was not a DIRECT link to any terrorist group, but how about an indirect one?

    They were buying the phones to resell them and make money for school. They are on summer vacation from college.

    Ok, but who is buying them and why?

    Terrorists, of course. After all, who else would buy a cell phone? Only terrorists have cell phones anymore. Under your bed? That's right: a terrorist. NOW you're catching on.

    Re: No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Ca (none / 0) (#5)
    by Lww on Mon Aug 14, 2006 at 09:21:12 PM EST
    NPR had a story on Michigan Arab-Americans who trade in stuff like this. They turn a quick profit. Love the egg on the face pic, but Bush makes Gotti look like the velcro Don.

    Re: No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Ca (none / 0) (#6)
    by Lww on Mon Aug 14, 2006 at 09:24:37 PM EST
    Sorry, Bush does have a bigger head.

    Re: No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Ca (none / 0) (#7)
    by Gabriel Malor on Mon Aug 14, 2006 at 09:58:49 PM EST
    Oh yeah, no reason at all to be suspicious.
    Sheriff's deputies stopped the men on a traffic violation Aug. 8 and found 12 cell phones, $11,000 cash and airplane passenger lists and information on airport security checkpoints in their car.
    Airplane passenger lists, airport security? Students reselling phones during summer vacation always have stuff like that lying around. $11,000 dollars? Shoot, I should quit law school and get into the cell phone re-selling business.

    There was an interesting article about this on boingboing earlier today.

    Gabe, you missed this:
    They also said the airport and airplane information were old papers left in the car by a relative who worked at an airport.


    Re: No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Ca (none / 0) (#12)
    by Gabriel Malor on Mon Aug 14, 2006 at 11:25:56 PM EST
    From the article:
    Defense lawyers have said the flight information consisted of old papers left in the car by a relative who worked at an airport.
    1. I expect the defense lawyers to make a vigorous defense for their clients. 2. I also expect that the truth will be discovered. 3. This is a case where everyone should be rejoicing because the system worked. Pretextual stops have long been legal and the suspects did consent to the search of the car. It is not unreasonable that police, finding the materials that they found, would have greater suspicions.

    Gabe, you forgot to mention the scary Arabs that frightened an old lady in a Georgia diner and of course the paranoid ditz who was freaked out by the Syrian Wayne Newton. But hey at least these kids didn't get shot, so maybe they should be thankful.

    TL.... They were buying the phones to resell them and make money for school. And you believe that BS? How much can they make per phone...? And why take them apart and throw away the chargers? Something very fishy there... but no DIRECT link could be found so they go free. Isn't America wonderful? BTW the egg on the face pic was not necessary. He's only trying to do his job. We all expect that don't we? The real egg would be if he ignored them and they ended up blowing something up. Gabriel... Airplane passenger lists, airport security? Now now..let's not jump to conclusions. These are nice sweat 'innocent' lads here.

    Why buy retail if you want to make money on cell phones? This makes no sense. You should get a better price on a 1000 phone purchase from a wholesaler. But there would be a record that you bought. It seems these lads went out of their way and accepted higher cost to have untraceable phones. Is that a crime? No. But neither is taking flight lessons. This may be a case of tax evasion.

    Re: No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Ca (none / 0) (#17)
    by squeaky on Tue Aug 15, 2006 at 07:32:42 AM EST
    Abdul Abulbul Amir-
    Why buy retail if you want to make money on cell phones? This makes no sense. You should get a better price on a 1000 phone purchase from a wholesaler.
    Maybe you could offer to be their business consultant. Together, with their ambition and your know how you would all be millionaires in no time. BTW-There are some kids down the street selling lemonade and I think that they need some help too. I am afraid, since they are brown skinned that they will be picked up as terrorists because they are not making money, Liquid explosives and all....

    Re: No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Ca (none / 0) (#18)
    by Sailor on Tue Aug 15, 2006 at 07:55:12 AM EST
    Airplane passenger lists, airport security? Students reselling phones during summer vacation always have stuff like that lying around.
    Read the article for an explanation, and if you don't believe the explanation ask yourself why the fbi and cops wouldn't crow to the moon if they found an alternative explanation. Making $18,000 driving around the country buying and selling phones for the summer sounds like a fun way to earm money for college.
    Shoot, I should quit law school and get into the cell phone re-selling business.
    I certainly agree with the quit law school part.

    Why buy retail if you want to make money on cell phones? This makes no sense. You should get a better price on a 1000 phone purchase from a wholesaler. But there would be a record that you bought. It seems these lads went out of their way and accepted higher cost to have untraceable phones. Is that a crime? No. But neither is taking flight lessons. This may be a case of tax evasion. fake name abdullah. You did not read any of the coverage. Cell phones which everyone on the planet has and flight lessons have nothing in common. The flight lessons you refer to include no Moslem Ameircans. NOT ONE. You don't buy loss leaders from the wholesaler!LOL you would fail business 101. You buy loss leaders at the retail level and resell. Back to school. Also if you are going to use the terrorism laws for petty tax evasion (which is actually very unlikly in this case) you are urging a use specifically refuted by all the backers of the patriot act and other anti terrorism laws.

    Maybe you could offer to be their business consultant. Together, with their ambition and your know how you would all be millionaires in no time. BTW-There are some kids down the street selling lemonade and I think that they need some help too. I am afraid, since they are brown skinned that they will be picked up as terrorists because they are not making money, Liquid explosives and all....
    Skin color has nothing to do with suspicious behavior. If the goal was to make money, then there has been no explanation for accepting higher cost than necessary. You don't need a business consultant to know that.

    Re: No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Ca (none / 0) (#22)
    by kdog on Tue Aug 15, 2006 at 08:33:47 AM EST
    Illegal to buy phones now? Freedom's dead baby. At least the official state-sanctioned version. Dead as a door nail.

    Re: No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Ca (none / 0) (#25)
    by squeaky on Tue Aug 15, 2006 at 10:39:51 AM EST
    Abdul Abulbul Amir -
    If the goal was to make money, then there has been no explanation for accepting higher cost than necessary. You don't need a business consultant to know that.
    Really? Do you ever see people buying things that you have seen for less money elswhere? I have. I still think that with your business smarts and their ambition you all could make millions. You would have to get a makeover though. I have heard that people that look like terrorists and have arabic sounding names get arrested these days, you know racial profiling and all.

    Re: No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Ca (none / 0) (#26)
    by roy on Tue Aug 15, 2006 at 10:48:06 AM EST
    SUO, AAA, BB, Gabriel, Granola, Yeah, the large quanity of cash and airline info is fishy. The prosecutor had the opportunity to look for real evidence and found none, so why are you still stuck on the merely fishy? Why focus on the initial impressions, to the exclusion of the followup? After a thorough investigation by The Man, it looks like the only thing these guys did wrong was have a wonky business plan. If that's the dumbest thing they do while in college, they're going to set the curve.

    roy, is the investigation finished? It may well be and I missed that, but I was under the impression that it was ongoing... For example, have they decided the laptop has nothing incriminating on it?

    Oh for heaven's sake, I completely skimmed over the first sentance...
    The FBI said Monday it had no information to indicate that the three Texas men arrested with about 1,000 cell phones in their van had any direct connection to known terrorist groups.
    ...I thought TL's headline was their construct, not a matter of fact. Sorry to all!

    Re: No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Ca (none / 0) (#30)
    by ltgesq on Tue Aug 15, 2006 at 08:41:54 PM EST
    You are not supposed to arrest people unless there is probable cause to beleive a crime has been committed. A hunch, or supposition is not supposed to be what we base incarceration on. The investigation should precede the arrest, not follow the arrest. We sure live in strange times.

    The egg on the face is ridiculous. He just can't prove a DIRECT terror connection. What do you think the end users were going to do with these phones and why didn't they just go to Walmart and buy them themselves?

    Re: No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Ca (none / 0) (#34)
    by roy on Wed Aug 16, 2006 at 07:13:04 AM EST
    ...and why didn't they just go to Walmart and buy them themselves?
    'cuz the local Wal-Mart was more expensive, and it's not cost-effective to drive cross-country to buy just one phone for a few bucks less. From what I've read, the students planned to buy phones in bulk, much cheaper per phone than what was available in Texas. Then resell them in Texas for more than they had paid, but less than Texas retailers charge, for a profit. Really, really, extremely ordinary business proposition. They should have contacted a wholesaler, and they should have used something safer than cash to pay, but it's not a complicated story. Now, would you care to address my question from yesterday morning? Why are you still focused on the initial reports, while disregarding the results of the more detailed investigation?

    Re: No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Ca (none / 0) (#35)
    by roy on Wed Aug 16, 2006 at 07:32:12 AM EST
    It's like the police found a box labeled "anthrax". Understandably, the police are concerned, and they investigate. Inside the box is a bunny rabbit. Lab results reveal that the bunny rabbit is not infected by anthrax. The cops decide to release the bunny rabbit (or maybe grill it, it depends on how much influence Texas has in the investigation), but some people object only because the box said "anthrax". "Turns out it isn't anthrax after all. It's a bunny rabbit." "But, it said 'anthrax'." "We should treat it though it is a bunny rabbit." "Why aren't you taking the anthrax threat seriously?" "Dude, bunny rabbit." "Think how many people could be killed by a box full of anthrax."

    Re: No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Ca (none / 0) (#37)
    by Sailor on Wed Aug 16, 2006 at 10:49:47 AM EST
    The men had been held on $200,000 bond, but when the charges were dismissed Tuesday, the amount was reduced to $1,000 each, which was posted.
    Hey, I know of cases where people used plumbing supplies to make pipe bombs, therefore any brown skinned person buying plumbing supplies is a terrerist.

    Re: No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Ca (none / 0) (#39)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Aug 16, 2006 at 12:28:48 PM EST
    Dark Avenger - Leaving aside your typical BS, I note that I provided a link... And you fail, as usual, to get the point, which is simply this. According to an investigator, they claim to have sold 600 of these cellphones to "someone" in Detroit/Dearborn. Now "someone" means "ONE." Now it is possible that they have a fool in Detroit that has bought over 600 cellphones from them AT A HIGHER PRICE THAN HE/SHE COULD HAVE PAID FOR AT WALMART OR RADIOSHACK, BUT THAT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE. But, even if they found a fool in Detroit to do this, why are they buying them in Marietta, OH, some 300 miles fro Detroit? Were there no tracphones in Detroit for them to purchase? My guess? They're gonna cut'em loose and see where they run. This story just doesn't add up.

    Re: No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Ca (none / 0) (#40)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Aug 16, 2006 at 01:14:22 PM EST
    roy - First, I doubt that a TracPhone is any cheaper in Texas than in Detroit. Secondy, they weren't buying them in Texas, but in Marietta, Ohio. So I really doubt they were cheaper. From 100 Main St in Marrietta, OH to 100 Main St in Detroit is 413 miles. That's 826 miles round trip, at 20 miles per gallon that's 42 gallons of gas or $126, plus expenses for a two day trip of, let's say $150. So with expenses of $276, they would have to make $5.00 per phone and sell 56 to break even... Doesn't make sense. It aint a bunny rabbit.

    Re: No Terror Connection in Michigan Cell Phone Ca (none / 0) (#42)
    by Sailor on Wed Aug 16, 2006 at 02:19:46 PM EST
    First, I doubt that a TracPhone is any cheaper in Texas than in Detroit.
    come back when you actually have some facts instead of just your hatred of all muslims.