Pennsylvania man named in alleged terror plot

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Michael Curtis Reynolds, 47, from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, is accused of trying to work with al-Qaeda, according to the FBI.

The Phildelphia Inquirer has reportedly obtained court transcripts from Reynold's Rule Five hearing, before a federal magistrate judge in Pocatello, Idaho that revealed a "convoluted plot" that also includes cyberspace intrigue, an FBI sting, and then an exchange of money in Idaho. Reynolds was represented by Federal Defender, Nick Veith, at the hearing.

According to the transcripts, FBI agents say that Reynolds was plotting to blow up the Alaska pipeline, another pipeline in Pennsylvania and a refinery in New Jersey, with a person who he thought was an al-Qaeda operative. It is also reported that he had planned an attack against Standard Oil Co. in Perth Amboy, New Jersey and Williams Refinery in Opal, Wyoming. However, the Standard Oil refinery, now Chevron, does not exist anymore. The refinery had closed more than a decade ago. All that remains in its place is an empty field. Armada Hess is the only active refinery in Perth Amboy.

So far, Reynolds has not been charged with terrorism.

However, a prosecutor in Reynolds' December hearing said that, "he tried to provide material aid to al Qaeda." The prosecutor also said the case "involves a federal offense of terrorism."

A municipal judge from Conrad, Montana, Shannen Rossmiller, 36, led the FBI to Reynolds by posing as an al-Qaeda operative. Reports say that Rossmiller was looking through terrorist websites when she came across a post by Reynolds who was seeking $40,000 that he would use to buy fuel trucks that would blow up refineries in New Jersey, Wyoming and part of the Alaska Pipeline. After six-weeks of e-mailing each other, Rossmiller agreed to pay the money, and set up a meeting with Reynolds in Pocatello, Idaho. It is reported that after the plans were made, Rossmiller then contacted the FBI who then set up a sting operation, two months ago, against Reynolds. "I feel compelled to do what I can and I know that I have an ability to do something. I'm out for the hunt," said Rossmiller.

Rossmiller started to look through terror websites just after the September 11 terrorist attacks in NYC. She has read the Koran, studied the radical Islamist lifestyle, and learned just enough Arabic to lurk around in terrorist related chat rooms and "ensnare" the extremists. She also said that he has "assumed several the identities of more than two dozen male personae on the Internet," and was also part of "a large number" of cases involving the hunting of terrorists. Court records also show that Rossmiller had posed on the Internet as an Algerian terrorist to "befriend" Ryan Anderson, a Muslim convert and a member of the National Guard from the state of Washington, who wanted to hand over information to al-Qaeda on how to destroy Army tanks and humvees.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John C. Gurganus Jr. said, according to transcripts, "he (Reynolds) was doing it as a plan to disrupt governmental function, to change the government's actions in foreign countries, and to impact on the national debate about the (Iraq) war."

Reynolds denies trying to work with al-Qaeda and stated that he was "a patriot seeking to expose an al-Qaeda cell inside the United States." Philip Gelso, Reynolds's attorney, has not commented on the case.

Authorities searched Reynolds' home and took his computer as evidence, and some documents allegedly spelling out his terror plots. According to Gurganus, in e-mails on his computer, Reynolds "described what explosives should be used (in the attacks) and where they should be placed." Gurganus also told the judge that Reynolds, "knew the plots could get him the death penalty as a traitor and that he would have to leave the country immediately once they were carried out."

According to the British The Inquirer, Microsoft was issued a subpoena last month to allow the Department of Justice access to Reynolds' hotmail account.

Reynolds has been in Lackawanna County jail, held without bail, since December 5, 2005, when he was arrested about 25 miles from the Thunderbird Motel in Pocatello, Idaho for an unrelated weapons charge. He was charged with possession of an unregistered explosive device when authorities found a grenade in a duffel bag that was inside a home in Pocatello that Reynolds was staying at before he came to Idaho. The grenade charge carries a minimum sentence of three to seven years, to be served in a federal prison. On December 20, a jury indicted and charged Reynolds with two counts of unlawfully possessing hand grenades.

Reynolds pleaded guilty to attempted arson in 1978, a misdemeanor and menacing. He was sentenced to a conditional discharge. He has also been previously convicted of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and breach of the peace.

The Times-Tribune received a letter on the 13th that used Reynolds’ return address at the Lackawanna County Prison and bears a rubber stamp as used to mark outgoing mail from the jail that detailed Reynold's denial of ties to al-Qaeda. The letter is postmarked with a date of February 10th, before the Philadelphia Inquirer story was published.

Titled "Patriot Games," the letter's content addresses the charge regarding the grenade found at his residence in a comment stating that it was planted there "by someone known to myself and to the FBI." In denial of work for and also in denial of any desire to work for al-Qaeda, Reynolds wrote that “I know what losses terrorists inflict on people. I would never work to assist them or harbor any,” referring to his claim of a colleague being killed in the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers.

In the letter Reynolds explains the investigation that he claims to have been working on to track "a person that I had believed to be a terrorist" and to expose them "once I had solid proof of who or where they operated from."

Reynolds claims that his family founded Bedford Hills, New York in 1676. He further claims that he personally has given military service in the US Army, written a Military police handbook, trained SWAT and drug enforcement teams. He further claims to have been an engineer with military clearance and to have taught in Thailand as a first grade teacher and also an English teacher to Buddhist monks.

As an explanation for his prosecution, Reynolds has written that he believes it to have been due to his military service and that he believes the case would be dismissed provided a hearing in front of a judge.

When questioned as to the authenticity of the letter, prison warden Janine M. Donate said that the letter appeared to be from the prison.

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