John Leo
In the view from my office window, the white cloud rising over the remains of the World Trade Center is on the left, the Statue of Liberty is in the center, and over to the right, just across the Hudson River, is the skyline of Jersey City, N.J. Nobody has ever thought of Jersey City as much of a symbol, but I have been meditating what the plots hatched there and elsewhere mean for the liberties represented by the lady with the torch.

Omar Abdel-Rahman, the Muslim cleric who directed the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, killing six people and injuring more than a thousand, regularly delivered fiery anti-American rants at a Jersey City mosque. Several of the conspirators worshiped at the mosque and mixed chemicals for the bomb in a Jersey City apartment.

The city's links to the Sept. 11 attacks were apparently much weaker, though the terrorists left footprints over a wide patch of north Jersey, including car rentals and addresses. Two of the living suspects in the case, arrested in Texas last week carrying box cutters and $5,000 in cash, were Jersey City residents who may have been assigned to fly a fifth jet into a major building.

Another item in the news: The Washington Post reported that the FBI detained and questioned a number of people from the Middle East who were reportedly seen holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops in Jersey City to celebrate the destruction of the twin towers. So far no other news organization has verified this report. Maybe it's a budding urban legend that reflects our national jitters about open immigration.

Part of our current shock is our belated awareness of how easy it is for terrorists to move among us. They rented good homes, depended on us to train them in aviation and hand-to-hand combat, visited Las Vegas, counted their frequent-flier miles, threw parties for neighborhood children and twice attended events at our war colleges. One bin Laden associate, a bizarre double agent, served in the U.S. Army. At least two are American citizens. One naturalized American citizen, El Hage, was convicted in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. Another American, Abdul Rahman Yasin, born to Iraqi parents in Bloomington, Ind., was indicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and fled the country.


John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

Be the first to read John Leo's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.