One of the dangers associated with Clinton?s military strike on Iraq is that Saddam Hussein could order retaliation against the United States. Senator John McCain says the threat of terrorism has to be taken very seriously. In this regard, the media have recently carried reports about the activities of a Texas tire store manager who is now awaiting trial in New York on terrorism charges. That?s right: a Texas tire store manager. This story raises concern that agents of Saddam Hussein or another terrorist leader may have been secretly placed in various American cities, so they can be activated to wage terrorism inside the borders of the United States.
The Texan?s name is Wadih El Hage. That may sound Arab or Muslim, but he?s actually an American from Ft. Worth. Introducing a story on the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather described his involvement in “a global operation that stretches from Sudan and Afghanistan right into the American heartland.” Correspondent Jim Stewart was then shown at a tire store in Ft. Worth, saying, “This may be the last place on earth you?d go looking for an international terrorist, but it?s right here at the Lone Star Wheels and tire shop in Ft. Worth, Texas, that the FBI thinks they found one.”
Wadih El Hage was until recently the respected manager of Lone Star Wheels. He is a U.S. citizen and a graduate of the University of Southwest Louisiana. Though Christian by birth, he became a practicing Muslim who regularly prayed at a Mosque in Arlington, Texas. But for 3 years, according to the FBI, he was traveling in Africa as the personal secretary to terrorist Osama bin Laden. He returned to America, serving for the past year as bin Laden?s undercover point man. El Hage is now accused of buying weapons for the Muslim militants who bombed the World Trade Center in New York City in 1993. An associate made the bomb that exploded outside the American embassy in Kenya this last summer.
El Hage has been indicted by a New York grand jury on charges of perjury for lying about his ties to bin Laden?s terrorist organization. This indictment is part of the government?s investigation into the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa. He is being held without bail.
But if you think this is a dramatic breakthrough for the FBI, think again. Reporter Jim Stewart noted that the FBI apparently knew about El Hage at least five years ago, and was watching him long before the attacks in Africa took place. Stewart said El Hage had been tied to a Muslim refugee center favored by terrorists in a Brooklyn neighborhood in New York City. However, he was arrested only recently, as part of the investigation into the Africa bombings.
Stewart interviewed a terrorism expert who said El Hage appeared to be a “sleeper,” a potential agent for terrorists who blends into American life only to be activated for the Muslim cause years later. The question is how may other sleepers are out there. Other reports indicate that bin Laden has been providing financial aid to followers in other American cities besides Brooklyn and Ft. Worth, such as Jersey City and Detroit.