The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Terrorism at 39 Waverley Avenue?

Posted on | May 13, 2010 | 12 Comments

Photo by Da Tech Guy

Pir Khan, Mohammad Bakht Zameen, Said Pervez — these are reportedly the names of three tenants of the boarding house at 39 Waverley Avenue in Watertown, Mass., raided Thursday morning by agents of the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and local police. At least six search warrants were executed, and two men were reportedly arrested, although law-enforcement officials have yet to identify the arrested men by name. Here is video of one suspect being arrested by ICE agents:

The Watertown raid was connected to the May 1 car bomb attempt in New York City, the Wall Street Journal reports:

The suspect in the Times Square plot, Faisal Shahzad, has been cooperating with prosecutors since his capture two days after the May 1 bombing attempt. . . .
The raids are part of the FBI effort to track down the sources of cash that Mr. Shahzad used to finance the bombing attempt, U.S. officials said. Investigators have focused on money couriers, commonly used in immigrant communities, as a possible way Mr. Shahzad got the cash, though there’s no indication anyone handling the money knew Mr. Shahzad’s intention to use it to build a bomb, officials said.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s primary concern during his testimony before Congress today was, evidently, to avoid using the term “radical Islam” to describe the motives of Shahzad and his accomplices:

One of the men arrested attended a nearby mosque:

Members of the Allston-Brighton Islamic Center are watching the news very closely after one of their own was arrested in the FBI raids. . . .
Center officials say Pir Khan has been coming here for Friday prayers for about eight or nine years. “I would describe him as a nice guy, a very good guy,” said Haroon Khan, the center’s director of community affairs. “And even I can not think of him that he can do anything wrong.” . . .
Investigators believe the two Massachusetts men arrested in the FBI raids provided money to the accused bomber, maybe unwittingly. . . .
Sher Wahab says he is shocked over Khan’s arrest.
He owns the cab company Khan drove for. “He’s a very polite person, a very nice person,” said Wahab. . . .
Islamic center officials say they will cooperate with the FBI in their investigation.
In fact, a month ago, the center’s president invited the FBI there when he learned agents were questioning a member about people at the center.

The fact that the FBI was asking questions about members of this mosque a month ago — i.e., before the May 1 bomb attempt — could be connected to reports that the feds had previously aware of Faisal Shahzad’s possible terrorism ties. Like the cab company owner who employed Khan, the landlord of 39 Waverley Avenue was “shocked” by the FBI raid:

He said once he learned of the search, he called the FBI, which sent an agent to show him photographs of his tenants. “And basically the information I gave them was they’re good people. They’ve been living there since 2005 or 6,” said Baij Joshi, who manages the Waverly Avenue apartment for his father.
Joshi recalled his four tenants living there, all male, all from Pakistan, paid their $1,100 a month rent on time and “maintained their property well.” . . .
“Only (thing) unusual is whenever the roommates, they go to Pakistan, they go for like two months and they always have people coming over,” said Joshi.
Joshi says one of the tenants, Said Pervez, worked at a 7-Eleven on Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown. Another worked at the Brookline Mobil station searched by the FBI, said Joshi; a third, Pir Khan, owned taxicab medallions.

The employee of the Mobil station appears to have been Zameen:

The focus of the investigation was on a gray Honda Accord registered to Mohammad Bakht Zameen of 39 Waverley Avenue in Watertown, Mass. That residence was also raided by FBI officials Thursday morning, and involved the arrest of one man accused of alleged immigration violations.

Much of what Da Tech Guy reported by phone about the neighborhood — including residents saying that police had been staking out Waverley Avenue for days — is being confirmed by other reporters. The New York Times:

Another neighbor . . . said two men “with connections to Pakistan” have lived in the top floor of the house for a few months. The neighbor said he had seen law enforcement officials conducting surveillance at the house for about a week.

Remember Da Tech Guy said:

The boarding house where the suspects were arrested is “next door to public housing” in an “ethnically mixed neighborhood.” . . .
[T]he 2-story boarding house at 39 Waverly Ave. is located two doors down and across the street from Watertown Middle School . . .
[M]ost people in the neighborhood don’t know their neighbors. That might make it “a perfect place” for would-be terrorists to keep a low profile . . .

And here’s the Boston Herald reporting:

[T]he rental property, which is located across the street from Watertown Middle School, is constantly turning over with new residents.

So it was the kind of place where residents wouldn’t pay much attention to the comings and goings of strangers. Da Tech Guy has now posted several videos from Watertown today, including this 360-degree pan showing the locations of 39 Waverley Avenue, the Watertown Housing Authority and Watertown Middle School:

A pleasant-looking New England neighborhood and it’s not been established that anyone at 39 Waverley Avenue — including the men arrested Thursday on immigration violations — had any knowledge of Faisal Shahzad’s plans:

Federal officials say the searches were to check out money couriers who may have facilitated currency exchanges for Shahzad . . .
Immigration agents on Thursday took three men into custody – two in the Boston area and one in Maine. The Boston men, identified as Pir Khan and Aftab Khan, are not charged in connection with the terror plot, and officials said the third man wasn’t involved in the plot either.
Officials said it is still unclear if anyone who might have helped Shahzad get money had any idea about his bomb plans.
On Long Island, the FBI searched the basement apartment of Mohammed Younus along Oxhead Street looking for possible evidence. Younus has not been charged with any wrongdoing, officials said.
Investigators said the reason the raids spanned such a large area is because the old-world money lending system Shahzad used to raise funds, called Hawala, connects people in disparate places.

See Da Tech Guy’s videos, including his interview with Barbara Lacerra, who became something of a local media celebrity today.