Over at the Intercept, Murtaza Hussain and Razan Ghalayini have done a long and infuriating investigation into the “Fort Dix Five,” one of the more high-profile terrorism prosecutions since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
As with so many of these terrorism prosecutions, the case against the alleged terrorists, including the three sons of an Albanian immigrant family, was largely manufactured by government informants who spent months trying to lure the suspects into participating in crimes they otherwise wouldn’t have committed — and in this case, never did commit.
For the Duka family, the arrests marked a tragic turn. They had escaped the turmoil of the former Yugoslavia and managed to start anew in the United States, only to find three sons publicly branded as terrorists. Dritan, Shain and Eljvir, seized when they were 28, 26 and 23, would be convicted of conspiring to kill U.S. military personnel and sentenced to life in prison, devastating the Duka family and putting an end to their nascent American dream.
Beyond the sensational headlines is the story of paid FBI informants with long criminal histories who spent a year working to befriend the brothers and enlist them as terrorists. This effort, both expensive and time-consuming, nevertheless failed to convince the Duka brothers to take part in a violent attack. Indeed, over the course of hundreds of hours of surveillance, the plot against Fort Dix was never even raised with them.
In addition to its particularly unjust details, this case has added significance because of the federal prosecutor involved.
Chris Christie, then the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, appeared at a press conference flanked by law enforcement officials to announce the arrests. “The philosophy that supports and encourages jihad around the world against Americans came to live here in New Jersey and threatened the lives of our citizens through these defendants,” he said . . .
The press conference and ensuing case garnered national attention, and the brothers and their friends quickly became known as the “Fort Dix Five,” characterized in the media as a terrorist cell that intended to kill servicemen and attack facilities at the base. For Christie, now a possible contender for the GOP 2016 presidential nomination, the arrests would be a career turning point, helping galvanize his eventual rise to governor of New Jersey.