"You Wanna Be a Terrorist? References, Please"

Monday, January 16, 2006

"You Wanna Be a Terrorist? References, Please"

Slate.com's Daniel Engber recently wrote this interesting column:
Jose Padilla pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges in a Miami federal court on Thursday, where prosecutors revealed a document said to be his application for entry into the al-Qaida terrorist network. The government retrieved the paper from a cache of almost 100 so-called Mujahadeen Data Forms discovered in Afghanistan.

Do you really need to fill out paperwork to join al-Qaida?

Not anymore. Would-be jihadists only filled out the data forms when al-Qaida was firmly entrenched in Afghanistan and coordinating its activities with those of the Taliban.

... Before the U.S. invasion in 2001, some recruits were asked to fill out personal data forms before enrolling in Afghan training camps. The data form ascribed to Padilla, for example, includes sections for language skills, religious training, and professional or military experience. It also asks for a reference — "state the party that recommended you" — and the address of an emergency contact ("optional").

... Bin Laden and his deputies may have used the data forms when they needed recruits for specific missions. The Sept. 11 hijackers, for example, were among the few recruits with the skills necessary to operate in the United States.

... New inductees had to provide a trusted reference and pledge an open-ended commitment, and they had to be obedient and well-mannered people.
For the sake of clarification, they mean terrorists who are "well-mannered" with each other. But not so well-mannered that they question instructions to fly a jetliner into a skyscraper or detonate a bomb on a subway train.
Experts say al-Qaida didn't have much of a bureaucracy even before the invasion of Afghanistan. Some trainees filled out the data forms but others didn't, and the early stages of recruitment relied on personal relationships. As far as we can tell, that's still how it works today

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