Thursday, March 02, 2006
Jihad Jack was a prized catch
Just the name says so much -- Jihad Jack.

Otherwise known as Jack Thomas, Jihad Jack is an Australian convert to Islam who took the Muslim name of Jihad and ended up at an al Qaeda training camp in 2001. He gets a gleam in his eyes as he describes Osama bin Laden "float across the room." By his own admission, he was offered cash and a plane ticket by one of bin Laden's top lieutenants to go back to Australia, under no illusion that it was for anything but terrorism.

Does the story sound familiar? Maybe you're thinking of John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban, who is now in a U.S. prison? He also went to Afghanistan, the same training camp, in fact, and was also someone al Qaeda wanted to recruit. Both men are converts to Islam and terrorism experts say they are prized catches for al Qaeda -- basically white guys who can blend back into their own societies.

Which makes you wonder: How many Jihad Jacks are out there? And what made him and others like him go to Afghanistan in the first place?

This week, an Australian court convicted Jihad Jack of intentionally receiving funds from al Qaeda and possessing a falsified passport. But he was acquitted of intentionally providing resources to al Qaeda.

Tonight, you'll hear an interview Jihad Jack did with an Australian TV program. He discusses his conversion to Islam and his journey to Afghanistan, but swears he never planned to attack his countrymen. He says he took the money because he felt he was owed it.
Posted By Henry Schuster, CNN Senior Producer: 5:14 PM ET
The fact that a "western" man was so willing to fight for a cause that is particullary anti-Western frightens me. One can only wonder what appealed to him that he considered turning against his own country. I don't believe he could ever say he didn't know the end result of meeting with Al-Qaida...a solicitation to destroy those in his homeland and all they represent.
Posted By Anonymous Frank, Anchorage Alaska : 6:00 PM ET
Of course they claim innocence and ignorance when they get caught. He should be locked up for a long time!
Posted By Anonymous JB Prov,RI : 6:03 PM ET
Having grown up in the Middle East I have seen over and over that some of the most religious fanatics are converts. There must be a psychological explanation somewhere, but we have to keep an eye on these people as they often embrace the radical side of religion much more than people who are "born into" that same religion.
Posted By Anonymous Markus, Houston TX : 6:20 PM ET
Its true that there are some people(white guys) who convert to islam and then fall into the trap of terrorist head hunters but that number is very very low. I personally know several of these people who have just converted to Islam because they liked it over their previous religion. Only smart guys who get converted to islams will be able to recognise who is terrorist recruiter and who is not.
Posted By Anonymous Venus B Williams, Hayward, California : 6:27 PM ET
No matter how you slice it, you don't take up training in a Radical Islamic Terrorist Camp, run by Bin Ladin, w/ out the intention of doing harm to just doesn't add up. That being said, I think "Jihad Jack" should count his blessings that he got off as easily as he did. I can only assume that in return for his aquital, he has probably given up many more of the above mentioned "How many Jihad Jacks are out there".....

I feel comforted knowing that we now have safeguards against multiple lines of communication coming in and out of the country, as well as a way to track individuals travels to these countries that harbor terrorism, which will hopefully help to protect our interests on a moving forward basis.
Posted By Anonymous BJ, Hartford, CT : 6:51 PM ET
It's scary to think that, right now, there are citizens of democratic nations like Australia and the United States that are using their freedom to believe whatever doctrines they choose to promote the destruction of that same freedom. Terrorist organizations are full of hatred for countries like America because they promote liberty. I find it hard to understand why people from such an accepting place, one that made them able to make choices about their own lives, would want to take that away from others.
Posted By Anonymous Caroline, Durham, NC : 7:06 PM ET
Was John Walker Lindh ever charged with an act of terrorism? I think people should listen to the facts and not the media in his case! His father was on the commonwealth club of California and tells a very different side of Johns tale. You can find it on itunes. Search commonwealth club and look for Frank Lindh and listen with an open mind. Its free to download the podcast.
Posted By Anonymous dan muskegon michigan : 7:28 PM ET

I'm sure this was an interesting story to cover and it sounds like it leave us with more questions than answers. Is there a profile of the personality type that would convert to Islam to become part of al Qaeda? Do these people live on the edge of American society? Has al Qaeda targeted these people; using them as puppets? I don't know about you, but this is better than any James Bond movie. The fact that it's real is the scary part. It makes me think twice about Pres. Bush's wire tapping and the security of our ports. Maybe we should have less rights for the greater good of the masses? Now I'm just talking CRAZY, but it does make you stop and think.
Posted By Anonymous Cheryl, Raleigh NC : 7:41 PM ET
The same thing happened in the sixties and seventies. Disaffected, affluent children felt that because they saw inequalities in society that the radical alternative must be correct. It had a romantic glow until they saw others achieving a better life while they acquired only social diseases, needle marks, and police records. The difference is they didn't have funding and organization to export terror.
Posted By Anonymous Tom Ross, Richardson TX : 7:42 PM ET
Finally, someone who sees our main weakness. All the talk of port and airport security, student visas and is our own countrymen that are the best bet for terrorists. I have told many that our next big attack would likely come from a non-arab. A US citizen. There are many people who could care less about patriotism, and would take money to complete terroist missions. Whether because of faith, or money, it will probably be an American - working for our foes - who will lead the next attack.
Posted By Anonymous Sarah Shaw, Shelby NC : 7:42 PM ET
i will totally agree with the views posted by Mr. Venus B Williams, only smart guys can diffrentiate between the real islam and the islam as shown by the terrorists.
real islam teaches harmony , equality , patience and jihad (struggle for a good cause).
i converted when i was 29 and its been so many years now , i find this religion more beautiful every day, because i am practising it in the right way , in the direction of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
Posted By Anonymous Subhan Keating , Perth . Australia : 7:48 PM ET
There are many "Jihad Jack's" out there. A lot of them are coming from our prison system. Some have been recruited by Al Qaida and some are sympathisers whom believe in their terrorist teachings. We'll never be able to find them all and some will pass through our anti-terror defenses. You just have to believe that Bin Laden will continue to search and recruit more "Western-looking" converts when his terrorist plots get uncovered. We have to keep our guard up and never lose our focus on defeating the enemy, in order for us to win the war on terror.
Posted By Anonymous Scott, Washington, D.C. : 7:48 PM ET
Perhaps Jihad Jack needs to meet some members of the Australian Special Operations forces. He's been trained, they have been trained, so the match seems fair to me. I'm sure there would be no shortage of these gentlemen who would enjoy meeting Mr. Jihad. After all, defeat the Great Satan's armies and you have defeated the Great Satan. Kill innocent men, women and children and leave the Great Satan's armies alone and you have accomplished little. Mr. Jihad, like all his Islamo buddies, is nothing but a self righteous coward who wishes to make himself look big by hurting defenseless people. He deserves death and the fires of Hell that will follow. . . . . and if we are lucky, very big and very horny cellmates.
Posted By Anonymous Kenneth Portland, Maine : 7:49 PM ET
Let's forget about ideology for a moment. I don't know how many people there are in Australia, but there are roundabout 300-million here in the US, right? Okay, so we've got John Walker Lindh. We've got the Padilla guy who was supposedly thinking about conspiring to build and detonate a 'dirty bomb'. Maybe we have one or two more at Gitmo, and there are probably some others that the FBI and CIA haven't told us about yet. Let's say we have a total of 30 Americans who, one way or another, have aligned themselves or sympathized with al Qaeda for whatever reason. That makes the odds about one in ten million that your average American is intent upon destroying the country that is, by most reckonings, the best place to live on the planet. Pretty slim. There are a large number of diseases and psychoses that are a lot more widespread, not to mention the chances of getting hit by a car or killed in a drive-by shooting. The lottery is a much longer longshot, but someone wins it nearly ever week.

I guess what I'm say is, in societies as large and diverse as ours (and Australia's), it's to be expected that a certain small percentage will run counter to the grain, and I think it's healthy for the rest of us to realize that we are not a population of sheep, and our continuity depends upon our vigilance.
Posted By Anonymous Leon, Berryville, VA : 8:20 PM ET
It is not surprising that a Western man who - for whatever resons - doesn't "fit" into our society may look for an alternative way of life. Look at so many people who enter other religious cults here in the States. There's no reason why seeking acceptance from a different religion and culture should be any different. What truly troubles me is that he claims he believed he would not be involved in terror. Also, as for his claim that he would not do anything against his "country men" - committing terrorist acts against other western civilianz is somehow supposed to be ok?
That man didn't need a new culture or religion - he needs a severe wake-up call and medication.
Posted By Anonymous Milena, Ft. Lauderdale, FL : 8:20 PM ET
Shades of Timothy McVeigh???
Posted By Anonymous Jon, Pittsburgh, PA : 9:03 PM ET
Jihad Jack is a publicity hound and a likely fraud. I can't tell who's song he's singing, but I'm sure anyone can call the tune for a little cash.
Posted By Anonymous Tommy, Missoula MT : 9:31 PM ET
OK, but let's please remember that there are many faces of Islam; there are hundreds of "white guys" in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia/NZ who have converted to a more peaceful version of Islam and who would never dream of committing an act of terrorism. I don't wish to minimize the seriousness of this issue, but it is definately a case of "a few bad apples" spoiling the whole barrel. There are a handful of "Born Again" Christians who commit acts of terrorism, too.
Posted By Anonymous Steven Hawson, Albuquerque NM : 9:45 PM ET
It must be al Qaeda's retirement plan.
Unfortunately, cults will always attract people who are vulnerable, lost and/or mentally ill. Who knew these people up to that time and would any interventions have helped, or eventually helped? Also, what really is the underlying reason for these Jihad Jacks, who we'd otherwise refer to as traitors?
Posted By Anonymous Carol, Frederick, MD : 9:53 PM ET
No, Tim McVeigh did not have any known ties to religious fundamentalism.
Posted By Anonymous Amit Agarwal, Atlanta, GA : 10:38 PM ET
We in the US, have a growing population of teenagers who resent their parents and resent the entire society they live in. Give them access to weapons, and they are just a hop skip and a jump away from being a terrorist.
Yes, our disturbingly materialistic society is responsible for this ... with the media being an all too willing alibi.
We are now exporting these very same values to the third world countries under the pretext of progress.
Posted By Anonymous Max Menon, Charleston, SC : 10:43 PM ET
It is frightening to see how people think, speak and act when they are frightened. Add ignorance to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster. There is as much diversity amongst muslim converts as there is amongst non-muslims or born muslims. They come from all walks of life and social circumstances. From rock stars to mathematicians, from lawyers to poets, from catholic priests to ex-cons, from butchers to barons. It is very wrong and dangerous to assume that westerners who convert were simply social misfits. The vast vast majority of converts are spiritual exploreres who discovered another world that makes more sense to them. In fact in most cases they are of above average intelligence, ethics and morals, they have to be in order to navigate and objectively understand all the different paths and critically evaluate them. They generally are thinking well-meaning people with great concern for social justice, equality and freedom.
Posted By Anonymous Imran H., Toronto, Ontario : 10:53 PM ET
Back in the early 80's in Venezuela, I met a Colombian man who showed me photos of him with Arafat and Khadafi. He told me he had a time bomb in his head that would go off when they told him. Obviously, these people have been practicing terrorism in this form for decades.

This man was deported by the then Venezuelan government. Wonder if they would do the same now
Posted By Anonymous Tom Rolle, Freeport Bahamas : 11:09 PM ET
I know that a lot of the time this blog is used to vent and stuff but I have an honest question that I wish someone would answer. If we know that these two men who were talked about in the story went to the same camp, and these camps are right out in the open (at least when you watch them on the news they appear to be out in the open)so why in the world aren't we bombing the hell out of them?
Here comes the venting. I just don't understand why it is that we went in so slowly. Why don't we just storm in there like the huge military power we are and take them out? We've been winning wars since forever so why is this so hard?
Posted By Anonymous Theresa Costello, Immaculata, PA : 11:42 PM ET
The guy was probably brought up by typical dismissive suburban parents. Dad too busy working. Mom too busy "raising the children." Can't see the forest for the trees.
Posted By Anonymous John, Toronto, Ontario : 11:48 PM ET
Why are you giving this story any attention at all? The guy was found guilty of a crime, end of story. Thye rest of his story is meaningless.
Posted By Anonymous Dave, Boise, ID : 12:02 AM ET
People look to religions outside their own culture when the religious leaders are seen to stray far from their religion. In this country, the conservative, fundamentalist religious right consistentaly runs counter to the very principles of Christianity's founder, distorting them to fit their political agenda. Seeing this kind of behavior it is easy to see why one would seek religious inspiration elsewhere.
Posted By Anonymous Jim, Washington DC : 1:01 AM ET
I'm a law student at the University of Pennsylvania. I'm also a Muslim and i happen to know many people who have converted to Islam. I've noticed that some people who convert feel like they need to prove themselves as a Muslim. The hard way is to pray, do charitable work and help within the community. The easier way is to buy a plane ticket to some Arab country and feel very "Muslim," all of a sudden. What converts don't realize is that Islam the religion and Muslims the people are two completely different phenomenon. As a Muslim, i cannot think of one, single Muslim country that has justice, freedom or equality. Converts have a hard time getting that and they rush to believe that Muslims and Islam is the same thing, and to embrace the religion is to embrace the people. Yes, there are many good Muslims. But there are many terrible, terrible so called Muslims who are a disgrace to Islam and anyone who believes in a just God. Most born Muslims have known this all their lives. However converts don't realize this and as a result convince themselves that the most seemingly zealous about Islam must also be the strongest believers in the religion, and thus the best guide to it. Fanatical religious groups in Muslim countries are, among other things, a response to may social factors such as illiteracy, economic disparity and injustice. The zealous brand of Islam is the opiate of the poor and destitute of many Muslim countries. That zealous brand is focused more on using its followers to achieve its political aims then to teach them anything about Islam and many converts get picked up and similarly used by such groups.
The only solution I can think of is that Muslim mosques in the West should have a better outreach program, and people who convert to Islam should not be so stigmatized and reviled by society that they turn to acceptance to the very people who fulfill the revilers prophecy.
Posted By Anonymous Amna Latif, Philadelphia, PA : 1:12 AM ET
i wish we could hear the story of these caught men from their own mouth a little bit more in the media to learn about their mindset. though i know a little bit, i am sure most of americans would be utterly shocked when they learned how cruel, selfish, arrogant, ignorant, barbaric and full of hatred an interpratation of a religion can be........
Posted By Anonymous matt rock, tucson-az : 1:29 AM ET
The comment about converts made above is interesting. In a way a lot of al-Quaeda's guys are like that; they are highly westernized Muslims who suddenly "find" religion and then become fanatics.

That goes for folks like bin Laden down througn Atta. In a way they are almost like converts.
Posted By Anonymous Glen, Edmonton -- : 2:39 AM ET
I don't mind people converting to Islam. I've read only a little about their faith and find it quite beautiful and just as uplifting as Christianity. beef with Islamic folks. However, if a person intends to try and kill anyone, whether it be American or Afghani, by using some terrorist act, then I say that person belongs in jail. Of course, they are innocent until proven guilty still, right? I mean, I know that America is on this terrorist scare, but we are still exercising the basic rights set forth by the founders of our country, aren't we? So let Mr. Lindh convert to Islam, Jewish, or Christianity, but let us not fear him simply because he converted. That's what my heart tells me.
Posted By Anonymous Bo Whitener - Waco, Texas : 3:29 AM ET
He never undertook the name Jihad Jack. The term was coined by the Australian media once they got wind of the story and it has stuck ever since. Cut the sensationalism please.
Posted By Anonymous Cheryl, Melbourne Australia : 4:38 AM ET
To the guy defending John Walker,
Do your self a favor and read the book
"The Hunt for Bin Laden" by Robin Moore.
He documents clearly Walker's culpability and close involvement with not only Al Qaeda and his hero Osama Bin Laden but also his role in the death of C.I.A. operative John Micheal Spann.His and other's subsequent attempts to portray him as a "misguided youth" were far reaching and a web of lies and deceit.
Posted By Anonymous GM Tokyo Japan : 5:37 AM ET
To put my views into perspective, I'm 21 and live in Sydney, Australia and have been watching this Jihad Jack story very closely.

For me, it's absolutely horrifying to think that someone can grow up in a country like Australia (or the USA in the case of John Walker Lindh) and manifest views and extremist beliefs like this.

Lets not forget that this Jihad Jack would have been raised as any other Australian would have been, educated under the same education system as I would have been and lived in a society that teaches western values that we universally treasure; whether we be Australian, American, British or whoever.

All I can say is thank god we caught this guy and let's keep talking about this issue.

Its time to drop the stereotypes because they are no longer in the ball game. Australia's only terrorism suspect in Guantanamo Bay is a white Australian and Jihad Jack is a white Australian.

This just shows the fight against homegrown terrorism is the new war on terror. As free people, lets continue working together and watching each other's back.

Well done to the Australian police for catching this guy.
Posted By Anonymous Kurt, Sydney NSW, Australia : 6:18 AM ET
I want to correct the comment i made above. Islam is and has been for the past 14 centuries one of the greatest world religions. There are 1.4 billion Muslims in the world. We are all Muslims because either we or our forefathers consciously coverted to Islam at some point in our lives. Jihad Jacks are a consequence of bad teachers and incorrect interpretations of Islam. There are hundreds of thousands of Muslims converts in the West, almost all of whom are peaceloving. Jihad Jack represents a teeny tiny minority that fell victim to violent teachers. To pass unfair and incorrect comments about all converts on the basis of one instance is unjust. No one knows about the rest of the converts because they never sensational enough to make it to the news.
Posted By Anonymous Amna Latif, Philadelphia, PA : 2:25 PM ET
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