Courthouse Arrests in San Antonio: Terror Plot or Stupid Prank?
Whatever prompted several man of Middle Eastern descent to break into a Bexar (pronounced "bear") County courthouse in the early morning hours today, the folks in charge would have us know that there's nothing to see here.
Five men in their twenties, described as French-Moroccan Muslims, are being questioned by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and by officials of the Department of Homeland Security after they were arrested inside the 120 year old Bexar County Courthouse in downtown San Antonio shortly before 2 this morning, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Officials say three of the men crawled through a window to get into the 120 year old Courthouse, which is a landmark in downtown San Antonio, and the other two were found in a van parked in front of the building.
Inside the van, officials say they found "photographs of infrastructure" including photos of shopping malls, water systems, courthouses and other public buildings which they say were taken in cities nationwide.
"They got travel documents, parking passes, they have been all over the country," one law enforcement officials who asked not to be identified told 1200 WOAI's Michael Board on the scene. "A lot of photographic equipment, a lot of documentation equipment inside their vehicle."
All of that sounds like the men have heinous plans on their mind. These men fit the profile (flag me for politically incorrect word usage) of terrorists: Young Muslim men, caught breaking the law. But:
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff says surveillance video from inside the courthouse early Wednesday shows some of the men wearing sombreros and waving around a gavel. He says they appear to be having a good time and could "just be some guys on a prank." Bexar County Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz says the men speak little English but are cooperating with the help of translator.
But then there's this from CBS:
The downtown break-in happened blocks away from dozens of U.S. intelligence officials who are in town for an annual convention. Michael Vickers, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, was scheduled to speak at the conference Wednesday along with Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, chief of U.S. Strategic Command.
The intelligence conference, called the GEOINT Symposium, started Sunday and bills itself as the "nation's largest intelligence event of the year." Anderson said that "daily sweeps" have been conducted at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center because of the conference.
Coincidence? Sure, it's possible. There are intel conferences several times a year all over the country. This break-in wasn't at the conference center where the intel conference is going on, though.
Something doesn't add up here. There are innocent explanations available for possessing travel document, of course, but the photos of water systems and other infrastructure? I'm weakly inclined to think "dopey dudes on a lark" for now, especially if it turns out that alcohol was involved.
But it's weird, and law enforcement tends to go out of its way to downplay incidents with fairly obvious terror connections, so this is worth keeping an eye on.
More: Also read: Two More Jihadists Traced to Terror U