On 20 May 2009 authorities arrested four men who were allegedly involved in a plot to bomb two synagogues in New York City and shoot down U.S. military aircraft. The men acquired two fake bombs from an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) informant and planted the devices outside the Riverdale Temple and the Riverdale Jewish Center in the Bronx. As part of the sting operation, the FBI provided the men with an inactive missile, which the men planned to use to shoot down military cargo aircraft at the New York Air National Guard Base at Stewart International Airport (KSWF/SWF) in Newburgh, which is located 60 mi/88 km north of New York City. The men carried out surveillance near the airport to determine an appropriate spot from which to launch the attack. The suspects will be arraigned at a Federal District Court in White Plains, New York, on 21 May. FBI officials have stated that the men began to plan the attack as early as July 2008 and accelerated their plans in April 2009.
ASI Comment: Authorities have stated that the men did not appear to have acted in coordination with any domestic or international terrorist organization, though they were under the impression that the FBI informant had ties to Jaish-e-Muhammad, a Pakistan-based militant group that has links to al-Qaeda. Reports indicate the men were upset about the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and had expressed a desire to “commit jihad.” There are no indications that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to raise the national terrorist threat level, which is currently Yellow, or elevated.
There is likely to be a greater emphasis on boosting security at Jewish facilities in the United States in the coming months. In the years since the 9/11 attacks, there have been at least two incidents in the United States targeting Jewish and Israeli interests: the July 2006 shooting incident at a Jewish center in Seattle and the July 2002 shooting at an El Al Airlines check-in counter at Los Angeles International Airport (KLAX/LAX). The FBI classified the LAX shooting as a terrorist attack, but only categorized the Seattle incident as a hate crime. So-called “lone wolves” — who did not act in concert with any terrorist groups — perpetrated both of the attacks.