Assume the Position

Saturday, November 02, 2002
Some evidence to support the story that the Russians will bury the Chechen terrorists wrapped in pigskin which is currently appearing all over the place. I was suspicious of the story, and still am to some degree. In June of 2001, Movsar Barayev's uncle, the ruthless guerrilla warlord Arbi Barayev, was killed by the Russians in Alkhan-Kala.
THE Russian military paraded the body of Chechnya's most feared warlord on national television yesterday. His death was one of Moscow's biggest prizes in nearly two years of fierce fighting in the North Caucasus.

Arbi Barayev, the rebel leader who controlled the bloody local kidnapping business and was blamed for the murder of three British telephone engineers in 1998, met his end in a pitched battle in his home village.

A soldier was shown on television lifting a rug shrouding his corpse to reveal the bearded and bruised face of the commander, notorious for the torture inflicted on his hostages.

The former traffic policeman even frightened many Chechens with his bloodthirsty treatment of his captives, among them the three Britons and a New Zealander kidnapped while working in the area for Surrey-based Granger Telecom. The severed heads of Darren Hickey, Rudolf Petschi and Peter Kennedy and their New Zealand colleague, Stanley Shaw, were found on a roadside in Chechnya in December 1998. Before being killed, they had been starved, beaten and tortured.

Overall, Barayev was personally responsible for the murders of more than 170 people, Russian spokesmen said. The defence minister, Sergei Ivanov, called him "a pathological sadist". The operation to catch him dead or alive had been a year in the planning and eventually involved several thousand troops surrounding the village of Alkhan-Kala, the Russian media reported.

His body was identified by by his relatives,
"The Chechen side has officially confirmed, that special Islamic commander Arbi Barayev has become a martyr," the Kavkaz Center internet side announced.
and given to them for burial.
The body of Arbi Barayev, one of the warlords of the Chechen gunmen who was killed by Russian military yesterday, was handed over to his relatives for burial on Tuesday. According to the command of the joint grouping of Russian troops in Chechnya, it has been finally established that the matter concerns precisely Barayev. He was identified by relatives and former members of his bandit formations.
So, I suspected the reported change in disposition of terrorist corpses was mostly wishful thinking. But now there is a brief Interfax item which lends some credence to the story:
Russian Duma bars transfer of terrorists' bodies to relatives

MOSCOW. Nov 1 (Interfax) - The bodies of terrorists will not be handed over to their relatives and their places of burial will remain unidentified, the Russian State Duma's amendments to the law "On Combating Terrorism" read.

A total of 288 deputies voted in favor of the amendments in three readings on Friday. One deputy opposed the amendments and two abstained from voting. The amendments were initiated by the Security Committee.

If the Russians follow through with that, it won't matter whether they actually use pigskin shrouds or not—the propaganda purpose will be served because the relatives will have no evidence to deny the rumor.

Friday, November 01, 2002
Whose lie is it anyway? Here is a brief story from Interfax, "Terrorists claimed to have had about 100 kamikaze accomplices outside theatre."
MOSCOW. Oct 31 (Interfax) - The terrorists who took several hundred people hostage in a Moscow theater claimed that they had about 100 kamikaze accomplices outside the theater, who were ready to take part in the terrorist act.

The statement was made in a telephone conversation by the terrorists intercepted by the secret services. Recordings of three telephone conversations, among them one between Movsar Barayev and one of the separatist leaders Yandarbiyev, were played as material evidence at a press conference in Moscow on Thursday

"They are legal holders of Russian passports and residence permits," one of the terrorists said. If the Russian authorities had not agreed to negotiate, the 100 suicidal bombers outside the theatre "were ready to work after a telephone call," he said.

"We will start the second phase, and they will see that we are prepared for everything," the terrorists claimed.

The recordings showed that separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov knew about the events in Moscow. In his conversation with Barayev, Yandarbiyev "tried to suggest a line of conduct for the negotiating party in order to preserve Maskhadov for political games," Yastrzhembsky said.

Stories like this are tough to interpret which makes them wonderful fodder for conspiracy theorists.
  1. Completely true - there were/are a large number of additional terrorists in Moscow just waiting for the call to "start the second phase" and the conversation is from an actual intercept.

  2. Terrorist disinformation - correctly assuming his calls would be intercepted, Barayev was running a bluff against the Russians in the hope that the threat of 100 suicide bombers in Moscow would keep them from storming the theater.

  3. Russian disinformation - the intercept is a fake to help justify the timing of the move against the hostage-takers and any crackdowns on Caucasians (especially Chechens) in Moscow and other Russian cities.
There may be others, but each of those three can be given semi-plausible rationalizations.

The absense of a rash of suicide bombings in Moscow after the theater was stormed tends to discredit 1, but the "second phase" could be a long string of bombings that just hasn't started yet, or the bombers got discouraged after seeing the outcome at the theater. 2 seems most likely since it requires the least rationalization. 3, of course, is the standard conspiracy theory line and has to overcome the ample evidence of Barayev's other statements including the NTV interview.

Thursday, October 31, 2002
Democrats routinely display their double-standard on racism and the public often lets them get away with it. Remember Willie Horton? Well, a New Jersey Democrat running for Congress is now running a campaign ad picturing accused sniper John Allen Muhammad.
John Allen Muhammad, accused in the sniper killings, has made his political debut. His image is appearing in a gun control commercial that an underdog Democrat hopes to ride to victory in New Jersey

"Scott Garrett shouldn't be blamed for the sniper," says a commercial that Anne Sumers' campaign has begun airing in a district in the northern part of the state. "But Garrett's positions are the problem."

The Garrett campaign sharply criticized the ad.

"I think it's sickening to see Ann Sumers exploiting the tragedy of the sniper shootings in a cheap attempt to get votes and avoid the real issues," said Evan Kozlow, a spokesman for the GOP contender.

Jeff Garcia, a spokesman for Sumers, defended the ad as an attempt to use a recent event to bring the important issue of gun control to the voters.

The commercial opens with a newspaper photo of Muhammad, who faces charges in the shooting deaths that terrorized the Washington, D.C., area this month. That fades to the image of a barrel of a gun on one side of the screen and a picture of Garrett on the other.

Although the Republicans complain about the ad exploiting the sniper shootings, nobody (as yet) is accusing Sumers of racism. Just imagine the outcry if a Republican was using a picture of John Lee Malvo in ads about lax border security.

Additionally, if the Willie Horton ads were racist, consider that Muhammad (unlike Horton) hasn't yet been convicted of murder.

UPDATE Nov 1, 2002: Jayson Rylander seems to agree, calling the ad, "despicable" and saying "I'm not sure the Willie Horton ad was as racist as people said, but if that was, then so is this." Jason also provides a link to a copies of the ad at The Smoking Gun.
(link via InstaPundit)

Comments are back, for the moment.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002
Comments disabled until YACCS stablizes. Besides, they aren't used very much, so I doubt anyone will miss them for awhile.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Time to put on your tinfoil hats. John Hawkins is back in town and his latest ACPOTI entry takes a look at the Vox NYC crackpots who make Indymedia seem like a C-Span roundtable discussion.

Newsworthy Inventions. I recently titled a piece "GROUND ZERO® Update — All the news that's fit to invent" which explained that the news media essentially created the idea that the FBI was searching the Ground Zero facility in connection with the DC-area sniper. Now Howard Kurtz has a "Media Notes" column in the Washington Post with an interesting item in the same vein.
When China was holding a Navy crew hostage last year, the Associated Press quoted Edward Briar, an analyst with the Military Research and Study Group, as saying that President Bush "is already beginning to look a little weak, a little ragged. An apology would be unseemly and embarrassing for the nation."

That story -- and 38 others -- proved embarrassing for the AP, which later discovered that Briar, and his group, did not exist. The wire service promptly fired reporter Christopher Newton, author of the stories, which included more than 45 people and plenty of impressive-sounding organizations whose existence could not be verified.

The Newton fiasco has garnered only a fraction of the publicity of past fabrications by New Republic writer Stephen Glass, Boston Globe columnist Patricia Smith, Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke and New York Times Magazine contributor Michael Finkel, whose portrait of a young Ivory Coast laborer was a composite.

One reason is that AP reporters tend to be little known, and newspapers often run their pieces without bylines.

But the sheer volume of Newton's inventions over 2 1/2 years, detailed by the AP last week, is stunning: One of his stories quoted Angelica Victor of the Education Alliance. Another cited Lynne Hallard of Civil Liberties Focus. Still others featured the comments of Jennifer Talles of the Western Association for Immigration Rights, Hugh Brownstone of the Intergon Research Center, and Thomas Jakes, president of People for Civil Rights.

One difficulty for his editors: Made-up people tend not to complain about their quotes.

Here is the October 22, 2002, list of 40 stories between January 13, 2000, and September 8, 2002. (No telling how long that link will work, wire service stuff seems to disappear fairly quickly from news sites.) Newton was fired on September 16, 2002, and the New York Times ran a story October 22, 2002, the same day AP sent out the corrections:
The issue of possibly fabricated names did not arise until shortly after the Sept. 8 article, which was on federal statistics on violent crime.

The article had quoted a Bruce Fenmore as saying: "There is overwhelming evidence that people who commit assaults do it as a general course of their affairs. Putting those people behind bars drops the rate."

Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri, called a reporter for The New York Times, Fox Butterfield, and said he had never heard of Mr. Fenmore, Mr. Butterfield said. Mr. Butterfield said he tried and failed to locate Mr. Fenmore and another source in the article, Ralph Myers. He called Mr. Newton in Washington. Mr. Newton, he said, responded that he had found the names on a Rolodex passed on to him by a former Justice Department correspondent. In a later call, he changed his explanation, saying that both of the questionable sources had called him volunteering their comments, Mr. Butterfield said.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Newton said that all the disputed quotations reflected individual conversations he had had with sources. He added that he could not promise that every name was a real name and was spelled correctly, or that the organizations cited still existed.

In an article on April 17, 2001, about Congressional efforts to make it harder to declare personal bankruptcy, Mr. Newton cited "Jim McLarnen, a spokesman for Fair Credit, a group that lobbies for credit companies," as saying, "There are people who are just irresponsible, and it is time we started making them pay for that." Now, The A.P. says, it can find no evidence that this man or his group ever existed.

The minimal press this story has received seems to indicate it's been intentionally downplayed so that there's little evidence that Newton or his fabrications ever existed. Nothing really conspiratorial, just the in-house media nudge, nudge, wink, wink 'you don't want to make a big deal out of this' kind of thing.

UPDATE: I knew I should have dropped by Media Minded before finishing that up. He mentioned it the day the corrections first came out and then followed-up on October 23, 2002, with a link to Slate's Explainer on the chances of Newton being sued over the fabrications.

Monday, October 28, 2002
Via Instapundit, whose site was running from an alternate for some time but is now back online, comes notice of a must read for anyone following the Bellesiles Arming America saga. Professor Jerome Sternstein completely devastates Jon Wiener and his defense of Bellesiles in The Nation. Just a brief taste of Sternstein on the "smear tactic" "hatchet job" Wiener tried to do on Professor Lindgren before you go read the whole thing.
The most egregious example of Wiener's smear tactic is his treatment of Professor Lindgren, Bellesiles's most formidable critic. Wiener begins his hatchet job on Lindgren by implying that he had interviewed him personally. "Who is James Lindgren?" Wiener asks ominously, and then responds, "He told me he has no connection to the NRA. . . ." This phrasing suggests that Wiener had an extensive personal interview with Lindgren, and also subtly insinuates that Lindgren could have an NRA connection that he may not have told Wiener about.

Contrary to the impression Wiener tries to make, his only contact with Lindgren, other than a couple of perfunctory e-mailed "thank you" notes on both sides, were two fairly long e-mails from Lindgren in reply to the following two from Wiener, which provide an excellent illustration of where Wiener is coming from and his limited understanding of the subject he purports to examine.

(1) Sorry to take up more of your time with the Bellesiles case, but I'm writing about it belatedly for The Nation -- which is of course initially sympathetic to the gun control implications of his book. I've got your piece from the Wm & mary Q Law Rev -- is there anything more recent of yours that I should see? Thanks for your help.

(2) You may recall that I'm writing a piece for The Nation mag. on Bellesiles. My editors want to know whether you have any connection to the NRA at all --are you a member, have you received any funding from them, have you had any contact with NRA staff over your recent work on guns. Thanks for your help.

It is notable that Wiener was totally unaware of Lindgren's powerful review essay, "Fall from Grace: Arming America and the Bellesiles Scandal," in the Yale Law Journal when he began his Nation piece, even though tens of thousands of readers (now well over one hundred thousand!) had downloaded it from several websites. But while that is disquieting in itself, his e-mails demonstrate something even more disturbing: they show that he and his editors were desperate to link Lindgren with the NRA, the better to sully his scholarly integrity. This attempt to undermine Lindgren, who in the past published two pro-gun control articles, by tying him to the NRA is particularly reprehensible, when, as Wiener was advised before he wrote his article, Michael Bellesiles is the one who proudly announced that he was once an NRA member. In a taped interview published in the Emory Report in 1999, Bellesiles said, "I'm familiar with guns -- I used to be in the NRA, as a matter of fact." Indeed, his claimed NRA membership was well known to people in his circle, one of whom Wiener interviewed. In the Chicago-Kent Law Review, Bellesiles's friend and supporter, Stanford Professor Jack Rakove thanked "Michael Bellesiles, a card-carrying member of the NRA, for general guidance." Isn't it odd that Wiener, an academic historian supposedly committed to parsing the evidence before him fairly, tries to imply that someone with absolutely no ties -- ever -- with the NRA had such ties, but he fails to mention that the historian he is defending, Michael Bellesiles, asserted he was an NRA member -- an assertion that Wiener was aware of? Wiener does remark that Bellesiles is "a longtime gun owner who only recently gave up skeet shooting," but there is only deafening silence about Bellesiles's self-confessed NRA membership.

A bit more about Mark D. Yates, Ground Zero USA (US), Berkeley and Associates Inc. (US), Trans Global Security International (UK), Sulayman Bilal Zain-ul-Abidin [Francis (Frank) Etim prior to conversion to Islam], Sakina Security Services (UK), and the Ultimate Jihad Challenge (UK) for those who didn't follow the link to the December 2001 MSNBC story. Mark Yates is pretty much a flamboyant self-promoter [When did he start prepending "DR" to his name, anyway? Bet it stands for Director of Research or something.] and has various supporters and detractors in law enforcement and private security circles in the UK and US. He apparently knows his field, but seems to push the tolerable limits of exaggeration as is readily demonstrated by describing himself as an "unsung hero" in that press release.

He had himself and his team filmed in Kazakhstan while "escorting Major Nicholai Shekel, a former member of the KGB and now a serving member with the Ukrainian state security" and he wrote "Men In Black: The Bodyguard Training Manual", which is billed as the "Official Training Manual Of The Law Enforcement Bodyguard Association International." Mark Yates happens to be the founder and president of LEBAI.

There is supposedly a recognized organization, the International Bodyguard Association, and in addition to having a problem with counterfeit association ID and fake diplomas", they say,"An Englishman, Mark Yates who was also expelled from the Association reversed the letters I.B.A. to B.A.I. and pre-titled them with the words Law Enforcement to establish his commercial concern the Law Enforcement Bodyguard Association International."

The best story that preceded MSNBC's December 2001 coverage is from October 28, 2001, The Telegraph (leaving out the Sakina material):

…former nightclub bouncer…

The 43-year-old former Territorial Army officer owns a number of American and British-based companies which specialise in providing military training courses on both sides of the Atlantic.

Two of his companies, Berkeley and Associates Inc and Trans Global Security International, run military training courses in the north west of England and in Alabama.

The company's US operation boasts three shooting ranges, two of which are designed for tactical submachine guns. The facility also has a "live fire combat house", similar to those used by the SAS and the American Navy.

Customers willing to pay up to £1,195 a session can choose from a long list of courses, which include training in SWAT (special weapons and tactics), urban fighting, hand to hand combat and special weapons.

The company also boasts an internet website called Ground Zero, which includes details of an anti-terrorist course. Would-be recruits are advised that "Alabama is only eight hours away from the UK".

Mr Yates is a colourful figure even among fellow bodyguards. He trained with the International Bodyguard Association in Helsinki in the mid-1980s. Subsequently, he claims to have provided training for international law enforcement agencies including the KGB and its successor the CIS.

Unusually for someone in his trade, he enjoys the limelight. His company literature includes character references from former clients.

He has also given a number of television interviews in the past which have detailed his exploits in the former Soviet Union. In 1996 the men's magazine FHM ran a profile of him, headlined "Mafia buster".

Friends say that he likes to regard himself as the ultimate professional and that once he had badges made carrying that inscription.

For all that, however, Mark Yates and his various companies seem to provide satisfactory training and protective services to their clients.

Sulayman Bilal Zain-ul-Abidin, on the other hand, is another story. He seems to be an ineffective wannabe either actually supporting or just exploiting fellow British Muslims and their jihad dreams. Born Francis Etim, he converted to Islam in 1979.

Sakina Security Services was apparently founded by Muhammad Jameel sometime prior to 1999.

Britain's Sakina Security Services is providing one outlet for that action by training Muslims in self-defense and outdoor survival strategies and offering community-based personal security services.

"Islam is not an aggressive belief but we have the right and the obligation to defend ourselves," Sakina founder Muhammad Jameel told Reuters. "We are not going to escalate violence because we're restricted in what we do by Islamic law," he said. … "The Muslim cannot blend with society," he said. "He changes society to blend with him."

In June 2000, this BBC story still associates it with Jameel (emphasis mine).
The UK Government is being urged to investigate claims that young British Muslims are being trained and armed to fight abroad.

Adi Ya Ya, a 25-year-old from north London, spent four months at a military training camp in Kashmir.

He returned to the UK to recruit others to fight for independence in Kashmir.

"I learned everything with respect to fighting - making bombs, using artillery, using a Kalashnikov, how to ambush," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Sakina Security Services, an international organisation funded by wealthy individuals, ran the course. Its website says it specialises in "high risk jobs in the former Soviet Union and in the civil war arenas of the world".

Adi Ya Ya says the recruits trained to defend fellow Muslims.

"If that means that we learn how to make bombs, then we learn how to make bombs. If that means that we learn how to kill, we learn how to kill."

"In Britain we do everything that is necessary in order for us to defend ourselves in this country in case there ever was any fighting taking place in this country, but we don't do anything that's against the law.

"We do everything except using artillery. It's not difficult to make bombs these days, you can pick that up off the net."

Sakina's website advertises a two-week course in the US called the Ultimate Jihad Challenge. It states: "Due to the arms laws of the UK, all serious firearms training must be done overseas.

"The course emphasis is on practical live-fire training. You will fire between 2,000 and 3,000 rounds of mixed calibre ammunition." The police say they are aware of the organisation, and it is not an offence to run the training camps, so long as the techniques taught are within the law.

Professor Paul Wilkinson, the director of the centre for the study of terrorism at St Andrews University, said although Sakina was not involved in terrorism, other groups operating in the UK could well be.

Sakina's operational head is Muhammad Jameel, a British-born Muslim linked with the leading fundamentalists Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed and Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri.

Egyptian-born Sheikh Abu Hamza runs north London's Finsbury Park mosque. He has lived in London for 20 years, and has a long history of support for Islamist causes.

His son, Mohammed Mustafa Kamel, was among 10 British and French citizens jailed in Yemen for a terrorist plot last August.

Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, judge of the Sharia Court of the UK and founder of the Muslim party Al-Muhajiroun, has said he wants the UK to become an Islamic state.

Still no Etim/Zain-ul-Abidin, but that first emphasized line is the Mark Yates connection. From the October 2001 Telegraph and December 2001 MSNBC stories, Etim attended one of Trans Global Security International's courses in southern Wales where Yates was instructing. The MSNBC piece also says,
The following month [April 2000 --lp], the Hindu newspaper of India quoted a Sakina Security representative who identified himself as Sulayman Balal (Zain-ul-abidin's first and middle names) as saying that "a few people" had signed up for the first "Ultimate Jihad Challenge" in April. He described the two-week course as taking place on a "1,000-acre, state-of-the-art shooting range in the United States."

The description closely matches published information about Ground Zero, the Alabama training camp that Yates runs.

The Ground Zero Web site, which was quickly retooled after Sept. 11 to highlight a new "five-day anti-terrorist training" course, says the Alabama compound features "state-of -the-art, world-class … training facilities."

A British security company, WK Security, which offers training in SWAT team tactics at Ground Zero under an arrangement Berkeley & Associates, advertises the five-day course as being held at a "1000+ acre training facility."

So now we have the connection: Zain-ul-Abidin, who normally goes by his given name of Frank Etim unless he's being Muslim, got his security and weapons training in a course conducted by Yates. He was then, or later became, an associate of Muhammad Jameel and recruited for Sakina Security Services by at least running the website. This did not seem to be a profitable enterprise, but it did get him arrested after September 11, 2001.

October 3, 2001 - Unidentified man (Zain-ul-Abidin) arrested.

A man held by anti-terrorist police in London is still being questioned by detectives.

He was one of two men arrested separately by Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist officers in central London on Monday.

The 43-year-old man is described as being in custody at a central London police station.

Police have until Thursday to release or charge him with an offence.

On Monday a residential address in south east London was searched by officers.

It has been reported that the man still being detained in London is being questioned over whether he raised funds for banned extremist group Islamic Jihad.

Police are also investigating his links with London-based Sakina Security Services.

The firm offers training including the "ultimate Jihad challenge" which allows young Muslims to go to a live firing range in the US for weapons instruction.

Sakina also offers courses on various aspects of firearms and unarmed combat as well as how to "improvise explosive devices".

Scotland Yard and the FBI are understood to have been monitoring the company's activities for over six months.

October 4, 2001 - Sakina Security Services website shut down.
A London-based website offering young Muslims the chance to train for holy wars abroad has been removed from the internet.

Internet service provider Freeserve has confirmed that the website of Sakina Security Ltd is no longer available.

The website had offered the "ultimate Jihad challenge" which allows young Muslims to go to a live firing range in the US for weapons instruction.

Anti-terrorist police are investigating links between the company and a 43-year-old man being held in custody at a central London police station.

He was one of two men arrested separately by Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist officers in the capital on Monday.

Police have until Thursday to release or charge him with an offence.

The Sakina website had also offered training in hand-to-hand combat, including "the art of bone breaking", as well as instruction on how to "improvise explosive devices" in live operations.

It asked visitors to donate money for the "liberation" of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem to a London-based account of the Woolwich bank.

It also carried a link to a "Jihad in Chechnya" site showing dead Russian soldiers.

Scotland Yard and the FBI are understood to have been monitoring the activities of Sakina Security Ltd for at least 18 months.

However it is not known who was behind the decision to shut down the website.

October 4, 2001 - Zain-ul-Abidin charged.

A man has been charged in London under the Terrorism Act with training others how to use weapons.

Sulayman Balal Zainulabidin, 43, from Greenwich, south east London, was charged with two offences, Scotland Yard confirmed.

The charge comes three days after Mr Zainulabidin, who worked at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London, was arrested.

October 5, 2001 - Zain-ul-Abidin remanded in custody.
A London man charged under the Terrorism Act with training others to use weapons has been remanded in custody for a further week.

Sulayman Balal Zainulabidin, 43, of Greenwich, south east London, faced one count relating to "providing instruction or training in the making or use of firearms, explosives, or chemical, biological or nuclear weapons" on or before 1 October.

He also faced a second charge that he "invited others as yet unknown to receive instruction or training in the making or use of firearms, explosives, or chemical, biological or nuclear weapons" on or before 1 October.

The former kitchen assistant at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London was charged by Scotland Yard on Thursday night.

At a special session of Bow Street magistrates court, held near Belmarsh high-security prison in London on Friday, Mr Zainulabidin, who spoke only to confirm his name, was remanded to appear again on 12 October.

Tyrone Smith, defending, said Mr Zainulabidin denied the allegations.

No application for bail was made.

As I said, the enterprise didn't seem very profitable. Though Sakina Security Services was supposedly bankrolled by big-money Muslim backers, Zain-ul-Abidin was working as a "kitchen assistant" (some other reports call him a "kitchen porter" and others a "chef") and didn't make an application for bail. At the end of October, The Telegraph did it's previously linked October 28, 2001, major story; and as Zain-ul-Abidin's January 2002 court appearance neared, MSNBC did the previously referenced stories on Ground Zero USA and Mark Yates.

January 4, 2002 - Zain-ul-Abidin in court (arraignment?).

A kitchen porter has appeared briefly at the Old Bailey, charged with weapons offences.

Suleyman Zainulabidin, 43, from Greenwich, south-east London, denied inviting a person, or persons unknown to receive instruction or training in making or using firearms or explosives between 21 July and 2 October last year.

He further denied possessing a rifle without a certificate on 1 October last year.

Asked by the court clerk to confirm his name, he said: "Yes, Ma'am."

When the charges were put to him, he replied "not guilty" to each.

Everything stayed pretty quiet and Ground Zero had been fairly well cleared by local, state and federal authorities by the time Zain-ul-Abidin came up for trial in July 2002. Then, ABC News' Brian Ross (who would later pull the depleted uranium smuggling stunt) brought the discredited story back to life on July 25th with the scary report, "Preparing for Jihad … in Alabama - Islamic Militant Training Camp Allegedly Operating in Alabama." There was nothing new in his story and it was mostly tabloid bunk (yes, you will find bullet-ridden stuff at a facility used for SWAT training), and the following day both NBC and the Associated Press nail ABC News: "…an investigation uncovered no evidence that a camp near Marion was used as a terrorist training camp…ABC News said the camp could have possible ties to Osama bin Laden's terror network."

What they all failed to explain is that there was no overnight investigation of the Ground Zero facility. It's status had been determined long before July 2002 and ABC News' tabloid reporting. Most people apparently missed or didn't pay much attention to the earlier, more thorough reports or the discrediting of ABC New's report, and so, along with help from Pravda, Ground Zero USA in Marion, Alabama, ("not far from Maryland," according to Pravda) became known as a terrorist training facility, even though nobody can say that any terrorist or wannabe terrorist ever set foot there.

Back to former porter/kitchen assistant/chef/alleged supporter of terrorism Zain-ul-Abidin. When we last heard from him, he had plead "not guilty" to the two charges against him. So, how did the trial go?

August 9, 2002 - Zain-ul-Abidin was found "not guilty" on both counts.

He had gone to a police station voluntarily to complain that he did not feel safe after a newspaper carried an article about what he was doing.

His website offered live firearms training on a two-week course in the US at a cost of £3,000, Mark Ellison, prosecuting, said at the start of the case.

The prosecution claimed that the invitation to go on the course was "wholly for the purposes of assisting or preparing terrorism".

But Mr Zain-ul-abidin said it was a bona fide commercial venture for training people such as security guards.

He said the only person to have taken a course in the last two years was a Sainsbury's security guard.

He is now apparently suing the Metropolitan Police Service (probably for whatever passes for malicious or frivilous prosecution in Britian).

He described the prosecution as a "joke" and said he was a scapegoat for "anti-Islamic" feeling.

Speaking at his solicitor's office the 44-year-old said: "I had £30m in the bank, I was fundraising for Islamic Jihad in Egypt, I was responsible for sending so many people to Afghanistan and this and that - all from a one-bedroom flat, it was a joke."

So, until that unidentified "Sainsbury's security guard" (who may have trained at Ground Zero on a trip coordinated by Frank Etim/Zain-ul-Abidin) goes on a terroristic rampage or something similar, the story should have ended in August. That it jumped to fore again with the DC-area sniper just shows that you can't ever kill a good urban legend.

The relevant provision of the British Terrorism Act of 2000 (apparently including current amendments) concerning the "terrorist offense" of "weapons training" says.

"It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section in relation to instruction or training to prove that his action or involvement was wholly for a purpose other than assisting, preparing for or participating in terrorism."
That pretty much explains the result of Zain-ul-Abidin's trial.

I have no doubt that terrorists and wannabe terrorists have probably used legitimate firing ranges as as well as legitimate flight schools and rental car agencies in the US. That doesn't make them all terrorist training camps, terrorist flight academies and terrorist transportation providers; especially when alleged terrorist wannabes have supposedly "enlisted in the United States Army Reserve to receive training in U.S. military tactics and weapons" to further their terroristic aims. Even the planned terrorist training camp in Oregon that forms part of the indicitment of Earnest James Ujaama is questionable, but the alleged conspirators apparently had no plans to try and pass it off as a legitimate facility. Although Zain-ul-Abidin was found not guilty of the charges against him he may be a terrorist supporter or terrorst wannabe, but it seems Yates and his business were used (I'd put a low probability on "willingly and knowingly used" even if security training may be considered a bit shady; and it was his UK training that may have had some terrorist wannabes in the class, no evidence for any in the US training at Ground Zero) just like the various flight schools were used.

UPDATE: I forgot this was a new week. Here are the links to last week's archived posts regarding the resurrection of the whole Ground Zero flap in connection with the DC-area sniper: GROUND ZERO® Again and GROUND ZERO® Update — All the news that's fit to invent. (They are in the same weekly archive so both links go to the same page.)

UPDATE 2: Fixed a few typos and edited the final line to stress that if there were any terrorist wannabes trained by Yates, the only reference shows they were in his UK courses and not the US courses at Ground Zero.

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