NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said Wednesday he did not believe it was possible for authorities to have caught terrorist Ahmad Khan Rahami, despite his father reporting him to the FBI in 2014, because insufficient evidence existed against him. He added that it is “not realistic” for the FBI to monitor such cases for extensive periods of time.
It’s not realistic to say every time somebody comes on the radar, we’re going to be able to follow them or their friends and associates for an extended period of time while you have investigations that are on the front burner involving people who are demonstrably dangerous.
“If you have that many contacts with that many people over a period of time, it’s increasingly likely that the next time something happens, it’s going to involve somebody that you knew about, heard about, investigated, bumped, or otherwise checked out,’’ he added.
FBI Executive Assistant Director Mike Steinbach made a similar argument, suggesting that civil liberties laws hinder counter-terror investigations because, without smoking-gun evidence, law enforcement officials are required to cease surveillance. “The American public, time and time again, has determined that they do not want us investigating everybody for as long as we want,” Steinbach said, adding, “I can’t just pick somebody out because of investigator intuition or a belief that this person’s a bad person.”
“We will try and do as much as we can, but we will not be able to stop everything,” he said.
Rahami was arrested and spent three months in jail in 2014 after a family dispute in which he allegedly stabbed one of his siblings. Following that attack, his father, Mohammed, reported him to the FBI as a terrorist. ABC News notes that, before Mohammed Rahami gave his testimony to the FBI, a neighbor had alerted authorities that he had heard the father calling Ahmad Rahami a “terrorist” during a domestic dispute.
After the FBI told Mohammed Rahami they had found no evidence against his son, he recanted his claim.
Among the individuals not questioned following the allegations that Rahami had jihadist inclinations was Rahami himself.
Nonetheless, Miller stated Wednesday that he believed the case “was handled to the extent that the system, the law, and the guidelines we operate under would allow them to.”
Shortly before Mohammed Rahami reported his son to authorities, another government agency had done so, as well. U.S. Customs and Border Protection interviewed Rahami after he spent over a year in Pakistan and Afghanistan, particularly concerned about evidence that Rahami had spent time in Quetta, Pakistan, a known terrorist hotbed. Rahami had also married and had a child in Pakistan. The customs agency warned the FBI Rahami was “someone who investigators should be aware of, given his travel and the amount of time spent in areas associated with terrorist groups.”
A federal official confronted about the warning by CNN stated that Rahami was identified within a “batch” of suspicious people, not as an individual.
Rahami had other suspicious ties to jihadist activity. Mohammed Rahami had fought as a mujihadeen in the family’s native Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, known today as the militia where Osama bin Laden gained experience as a fighter. Those who know the family say Mohammed Rahami was a strict Muslim father who demanded his children marry, and he forced Ahmad Rahami on a trip to Pakistan shortly after he impregnated a Dominican-American girl in high school. During that trip, Ahmad Rahami reportedly called friends to say his father stole his passport and left the country, stranding him there.