Recent News from ACT! for America

By Mike Levine
Published February 17, 2012

Authorities have arrested a man allegedly on his way to the U.S. Capitol for what he thought would be a suicide attack on one of the nation's most symbolic landmarks, Fox News has learned exclusively. 

The man, in his 30s and of Moroccan descent, was nabbed following a lengthy investigation by the FBI, initiated after he expressed interest in conducting an attack. It's unclear how the FBI learned of his aspirations.  

The man thought undercover FBI agents assisting him in his plot were associates of Al Qaeda

When he was arrested Friday in Washington, he was carrying with him a vest supposedly packed with explosives, but the material inside was not actually dangerous, Fox News was told. 

A short time earlier, he had been praying at a mosque in the Washington area. His destination was Capitol Hill

The public was never in danger, as he had been under constant surveillance for some time, officials said. 

In a statement that did not get into the details of the alleged plot, the U.S. Capitol Police said the suspect was "closely and carefully monitored." Capitol Police confirmed the suspect was arrested on Friday. 

"At no time was the public or congressional community in any danger," the department said. 

A senior source involved with law enforcement at the Capitol also told Fox News the investigation was "all very controlled." The source said the U.S. Capitol Police was involved with the FBI and other agencies in tracking the suspect "not more than a year."

An arrest usually indicates charges have been filed in some form, but it's unclear when or how charges would have been filed in this case. It's also unclear if the suspect will be appearing in court Friday. In similar past cases, suspects have made their initial court appearance within hours of their arrest. 

Sites in Washington have long been a target for terrorists, especially self-radicalized extremists caught in FBI stings. 

In September, a Massachusetts man was arrested for allegedly plotting to fly bomb-laden model planes into the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol. FBI agents claiming to be associates of Al Qaeda provided 26-year-old Rezwan Ferdaus with what he thought was explosive material for the remote-controlled planes. 

Nearly a year earlier, a Virginia man was arrested for trying to help Al Qaeda plan multiple bombings against Washington's Metrorail system. For months, 34-year-old Farooque Ahmed of Ashburn, Va., had been meeting and discussing "jihad" with individuals he thought were affiliated with Al Qaeda, but in fact he was meeting with FBI agents. 

In the past year alone, at least 20 people have been arrested in the United States on terrorism-related charges, according to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. 

"Most of the arrests" have involved "lone wolves," radicalized online and able to use the Internet to build bombs, FBI Director Robert Mueller told the Senate committee last month. 

At the time of Ahmed's arrest in October 2010, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Neil MacBride, said the case showcases "our ability to find those seeking to harm U.S. citizens and neutralize them before they can act."

Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

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Published February 15, 2012

A Colorado high school student says he quit the school choir after an Islamic song containing the lyric "there is no truth except Allah" made it into the repertoire.

James Harper, a senior at Grand Junction High School in Grand Junction, put his objection to singing "Zikr," a song written by Indian composer A.R. Rahman, in an email to Mesa County School District 51 officials. When the school stood by choir director Marcia Wieland's selection, Harper said, he quit.

"I don’t want to come across as a bigot or a racist, but I really don’t feel it is appropriate for students in a public high school to be singing an Islamic worship song,” Harper told KREX-TV. "This is worshipping another God, and even worshipping another prophet ... I think there would be a lot of outrage if we made a Muslim choir say Jesus Christ is the only truth."

But district spokesman Jeff Kirtland defended the decision to include the song.

"Choral music is often devoted to religious themes. ... This is not a case where the school is endorsing or promoting any particular religion or other non-educational agenda. The song was chosen because its rhythms and other qualities would provide an opportunity to exhibit the musical talent and skills of the group in competition, not because of its religious message or lyrics," Kirtland told in an email while noting that the choir "is a voluntary, after-school activity."

"Students are not required to participate, and receive no academic credit for doing so," he said.


At an upcoming concert, the choir is scheduled to sing an Irish folk song and an Christian song titled "Prayer of the Children," in addition to the song by Rahman.

"The teacher consulted with students and asked each of them to review an online performance of the selection with their parents before making the decision to perform the piece," Kirtland said, and members who object to the religious content of musical selections aren't required to sing them.

Rahman, who has sold hundreds of millions of records and is well-known in his homeland, has said the song is not intended for a worship ceremony. He told in a written statement that the song, composed for the move "Bose, the Forgotten Hero," is about "self-healing and spirituality."

"It is unfortunate that the student in Colorado misinterpreted the intention of the song," Rahman said. "I have long celebrated the commonalities of humanity and try to share and receive things in this way. While I respect his decision for opting out, this incident is an example of why we need further cultural education through music.”

The song is written in Urdu, but one verse translates to "There is no truth except Allah" and "Allah is the only eternal and immortal." Although the choir sang the original version, Wieland distributed translated lyrics.

Grand Junction High School Principal Jon Bilbo referred questions to Kirtland.'s Joshua Rhett Miller contributed to this story.

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CBS News/Associated Press
February 14, 2012 10:48 AM

JERUSALEM - An Israeli Cabinet minister says his country will "settle the score" with the perpetrators of a bombing attempt in Bangkok.

An Iranian man fleeing wounded from an explosion at a rented Bangkok house lobbed a grenade at police that rebounded and blew off one of his legs Tuesday in a series of blasts. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the explosion, which wounded four civilians, was an attempted terrorist attack backed by Iran.

Israel has also blamed Iran for a pair of attacks on Israeli diplomatic targets in India and Georgia on Monday. Tehran has denied responsibility for those attacks.

Speaking on Israel Radio, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch did not mention Iran explicitly, but strongly implied Israel would seek revenge.

"We know who carried out the terror attacks, we know who sent them, and Israel will settle the score with them," he said.

Thai security forces found more explosives in the house where the Iranian man was staying with two compatriots in Bangkok, but the possible targets were not immediately known, Police Gen. Pansiri Prapawat said. One of the other men was arrested later at the airport.

Monday's attacks appeared to mirror the recent "sticky bomb" killings of Iranian nuclear scientists that Tehran has blamed on Israel.

Israeli police raised their state of alert throughout the country, and officials predicted the attacks were the first in a wave of assaults on Israeli targets worldwide by Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah.

The bombings have ratcheted already high tensions over Iran's nuclear program. Israel doesn't believe Iran's claims that it aims to produce electricity, not bombs, and its threats of a possible military strike have grown more ominous in recent weeks.

In Thailand, Tuesday's bizarre sequence of explosions began when explosives apparently detonated by accident, blowing off part of the roof of the Bangkok house.

City surveillance footage from just after that blast showed separate images of each of the suspects walking down the middle of a residential street. One man wearing a baseball cap and a dark jacket carried a large backpack over one shoulder and what appeared to be two portable transistor radios — one in each hand.

A second suspect wearing sunglasses, a T-shirt, pants and tennis shoes also carried a backpack, while the third, dressed in camouflage shorts carried nothing.

A passport found at one blast scene identified one man as Saeid Moradi from Iran, Pansiri said.

Moradi tried to wave down a taxi "but the driver refused," Pansiri said. Moradi then threw an explosive that hit the taxi and partially destroyed it.

Police responding to the first blast tried to apprehend Moradi, who hurled a grenade at them to defend himself. "But somehow it bounced back" and blew off one of legs, Pansiri said.

Photos showed the wounded man covered in dark soot on a sidewalk strewn with broken glass. He lay in front of a Thai school, head raised as if he was attempting to sit up or look around. Hospital officials said Moradi's right leg was severed below the knee, while his left leg was intact but severely wounded.

Later Tuesday night, security forces at a Bangkok airport detained an Iranian — identified as Mohummad Hazaei — as he tried to board a flight for Malaysia, police said. They said he was one of the three in the house where explosives first went off.

A third Iranian is on the run, police said.

Thai government spokeswoman Thitima Chaisaeng said "we need more analysis" to determine who was behind the attack and whether Iran was involved. She refused to comment on what the Iranian suspects might have been planning or whether targets had been identified in Bangkok.

Speaking in Singapore, Barak said Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah are "unrelenting terror elements endangering the stability of the region and endangering the stability of the world."

In India, investigators were searching for what they called a well-trained motorcycle assailant who stuck a magnet bomb on an Israeli diplomatic car in New Delhi, wounding four people Monday.

In Thailand, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called on people "not to panic" after Tuesday's explosions and said the situation was under control.

The blasts Tuesday wounded three Thai men and one Thai woman, according to Suwinai Busarakamwong, a doctor at Kluaynamthai Hospital.

Last month, a Lebanese-Swedish man with alleged links to pro-Iranian Hezbollah militants was detained by Thai police. He led authorities to a warehouse filled with more than 8,800 pounds of urea fertilizer and several gallons of liquid ammonium nitrate.

Israel and the United States at the time warned their citizens to be alert in the capital.

Pansiri, the Thai police officer, said that "so far, we haven't found any links between these two cases." Immigration police are trying to trace Moradi's movements, but initial reports indicated he flew into Thailand from Seoul, South Korea on Feb. 8, Pansiri said. He landed at the southern Thai resort town of Phuket, then stayed in a hotel in Chonburi, a couple hours drive southeast of Bangkok, for several nights.

Pansiri said a bomb disposal unit checked a dark satchel near the spot where Moradi was wounded, and police found Iranian currency, US dollars and Thai money in the bag.

A bomb disposal squad also said two explosive devices were found in the Iranian's damaged home and defused. They said each was made of three or four pounds of C-4 explosives stuffed inside a pair of radios.

National Police Chief Gen. Prewpan Damapong said the bombs were "magnetic and can get stuck to a vehicle. It can harm people, but not areas."

Thailand has rarely been a target for foreign terrorists, although a domestic Muslim insurgency in the country's south has involved bombings of civilian targets. 

The blasts in Bangkok, New Delhi and Georgia have raised worry that a fast-escalating proxy war between Iran and Israel might spread. Iran has accused the Israelis of being behind a series of assassinations of nuclear scientists and other sabotage of its nuclear program. Israel, like the West, believes Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.

© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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By: Associated Press
February 12, 2012 01:01 PM EST 

MANAMA, Bahrain — The top U.S. Navy official in the Persian Gulf said Sunday he takes Iran’s military capabilities seriously but insists his forces are prepared to confront any Iranian aggression in the region.

Vice Adm. Mark Fox, commander of the 5th Fleet, told reporters at the naval force’s Bahrain headquarters that the Navy has “built a wide range of potential options to give the president” and is “ready today” to confront any hostile action by Tehran.

He did not outline specifically how the Navy might respond to an Iranian strike or an effort to shut the entrance to the Persian Gulf, though any response would likely involve the two U.S. aircraft carriers and other warships cruising the waters off Iran.

“We’ve developed very precise and lethal weapons that are very effective, and we’re prepared,” Fox said. “We’re just ready for any contingency.”

Faced with tightening Western sanctions, Iranian officials have stepped up threats to close the Strait of Hormuz if the country’s oil exports are blocked. A fifth of the world’s oil supply passes through the narrow waterway, which is only about 30 miles across at its narrowest point.

Iran and Oman share control of the waterway, but it is considered an international strait, meaning free passage is guaranteed.

Iran’s army chief, Gen. Ataollah Salehi, early last month warned an American warship not to return to the Gulf shortly after the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and another vessel left. Another carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, entered the Gulf without incident Jan. 22.

Fox acknowledged that Iran’s military is “capable of striking a blow” against American forces in the Gulf, particularly using unconventional means such as small attack boats or mines laid along shipping lanes.

“We’re not bulletproof. There are people that can take a swipe at us,” Fox said.

But he added that he has reminded officers under his command that they “have a right and an obligation of self defense” if attacked.

The admiral’s comments echo those of other Western officials, who say they will respond swiftly to any Iranian attempt to shut the Strait of Hormuz.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” last month that Iranian forces could block shipping through the strait “for a period of time,” but added, “We can defeat that.”

Fox’s command encompasses the bulk of the Middle East, including the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and a large swath of the Indian Ocean along the east African coast. There are about 25,000 sailors under his command.



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