Whitaker looked at the file Taylor handed back, and waited.
“And?” she said, when he didn’t say anything else.
“And, ‘yes, ‘ you guys made a mistake.”
“What exactly did we make a mistake on?”
“When you jumped to the conclusion that this was terrorism related.”
“Ohh, and you think someone blowing up a government building was, what, an accident?”
“I don’t know why the building blew up, yet, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t of a terrorist origination.”
“Let me guess, Islam is a religion of peace and you don’t think they would come to the US and do this? Right?”
“I’m betting you looked at my file. Right?”
“Based on what you saw there, do you think I’m that guy?”
“I wouldn’t have thought so until now.”
“I’m not saying it wasn’t terrorism out of some Kum ba yah idealism. I’ve seen these guys ... up close. I know more than pretty much anyone you will ever meet how brutal and ruthless these guys are. I do think you people tend to jump to Islamic extremism pretty damn fast. Not everyone over there is a terrorist. I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for a bunch of other guys who lived in those mountains. They risked their lives to get me out! But none of that matters, here. I think you’re wrong because of what I just saw, not because of some philosophy I came in with.”
“Ok, genius, what did we miss.”
“It wasn’t so much what you missed, as target fixation.”
“It’s something they drill us on in field exercises. Soldiers will get so focused on the target in front of them, that they lose sight of what’s happening on either side. You guys are so focused on terrorism, you’re missing the obvious stuff next to it.”
“And that is?”
“That this is one of the last places a terrorist would attack.”
“Look around you. There is one building that had ... what ... five guys, total, in it. We are literally in the middle of nowhere. And they attacked in the middle of the night. Terrorists’ main goal is in their name. They want to cause terror. These guys know they can’t match a major power one on one, so they attack an enemies resolve. They go after civilians or targets that mean something to the country they are fighting against. They blow up markets where families are shopping, shoot up schools and movie theaters. They fly airplanes into buildings, they blow up the symbols of capabilities, they run and gun at the base of the Eiffel Tower, they park a car filled with explosives in Times Square. They want to piss off their enemy, to provoke an overreaction. They want us to come back and have less control over how we pick our targets so we have more collateral damage. They want us to crack down on Muslims locally. They believe they can use all of this to help recruit more people to their cause, and on and on. They understand that just killing soldiers isn’t enough. This war on terror has been going on for more than a decade. People aren’t paying attention any more. They hear about combat casualties and they think ‘that’s a shame’ but then they go on with their day and never look back.”
Taylor paused and waved at the crime scene behind him, “This? It’s not much of a symbol. At least, not one you can’t find closer to the Middle East, than Texas. It’s not full of civilians. Hell, they would have killed more people if they’d just waited eight hours for the larger day shift. And it won’t piss anyone off. By next week, no one more than thirty miles from here will even remember this happened.”
“They wanted to hit America’s military capability?”
“By attacking a Guard armory in bum-f•©k Texas? There are literally thousands of targets of higher value, many a hell of a lot closer to the countries these guys come from, and a hell of a lot more exposed. Plus, you have another problem.”
“Beyond this being a piss poor target for terrorism, look at your map. You have a college town filled with the young of America, going about their day in blissful ignorance. You’ve got dorms and bars and clubs; all of which are much more tightly packed with targets, and all of which are easier to get to than a guarded military base where they needed an inside man to shut off the alarm.”
“So maybe Samar is self-radicalized and came up with the idea on his own!”
“Maybe; but even then, if he’s been reading enough of the rhetoric to get radicalized, he’d know to look for a better target. Plus, he’s been trained by the US military. He’d recognize how vulnerable a college town is. No, it’s a squishy theory at best.”
“Do you have a better theory?”
“Not yet. We need to go look at his place. I know you guys are digging into his life.”
“We just got a warrant for his apartment.”
“Great, let’s go take a look.”
“I don’t know. I don’t want you getting in the way of professionals while they are conducting the search.”
“I promise I’ll be a good boy and even follow your instructions. I just want to look into this kid’s life, and see what your guys find.”
“Fine. But if you start ignoring me while we’re there, I’m going to yank your ass out so hard it’ll snap your neck.”
They both got back into the SUV and started backing away from the crime scene.
“Can I call you Lola, now?”
“No,” she said angrily.
Taylor looked out the window, away from her, and smiled. ‘Keep poking the bear’ he thought to himself with a mental chuckle.
It didn’t take them long to get to Samar’s apartment. He lived on the outskirts of Lubbock, on the side nearest the armory, probably to make it easy to get to work every day. There were already a couple of vehicles parked out front that practically screamed FBI.
Whitaker badged them through the door, and they walked into the one bedroom apartment that was cramped by all the people digging through drawers. He recognized some of the FBI people he had seen yesterday in the Dallas office, but didn’t see Robles anywhere.
It seemed like their main goal was to pull everything off every shelf or out of every cupboard, and the floor was becoming littered with the effects of Samar’s life. Even to Taylor’s untrained eye however, he could see how thorough they were being, looking through everything.
Whitaker stopped to talk to someone and ignored Taylor, so he walked into the bedroom, and saw an agent sitting down at the small desk in the corner and booting up the computer. Taylor noticed it loaded straight to the desktop and didn’t go to a password screen. Maybe it was just his life in the military where you had to log in your ID to everything, but he found it amazing people in the civilian world lived without any care for security.
Taylor walked around, looking over the shoulders of the people digging through the bookshelves and night stands, went to the kitchen and looked into the fridge, poked his head into the closet to look around and dug through the possessions now littering the floor.
Near the dresser, Taylor knelt down and picked up a picture frame that had the back pulled off, but the picture still in it. In the photo Samar was standing behind a seated blond haired girl. Samar’s arms were wrapped around her, not violently but in an almost hug from behind, with his arms crossing just above her chest, and his hands gripping her arms. The girl in the picture had her hands on Samar’s form loosely and she had an almost contented smile on her face.
Around her neck, partially obscured by Samar’s arms, Taylor could make out a delicate gold cross.
Samar was wearing a crisp pair of BDUs and the girl was in a nice white shirt. While not slutty, it also wasn’t conservative. Tastily revealing would be how he would describe it, and it showed a fair amount of cleavage.
They looked like a typical, happy couple.
“Bingo,” a voice called out.
Taylor looked up and saw the guy at the computer turned around to the room.
“I found something.”
Quickly a whole gaggle of agents rushed over, looking at the files and talking to each other.
“Man, this is some sick shit. Looks like the kids manifesto or whatever,” the guy said to the room as a whole, since not everyone could get close enough to see what was on the computer.
Once everyone had cycled through to look at the computer, including Whitaker who gave Taylor a fairly smug look, Taylor went over and looked at the document.
It was pretty damning. In it Samar says he has heard the call of Allah, and he was going to smite the infidels, starting with every government building he could find.
Taylor read it twice through before asking the guy at the computer, “Where on the computer did you find this?”
“It was buried pretty deep inside some otherwise innocuous folders.”
“Compressed or in a password protected folder?”
“No, just sitting there.”
Taylor read the title of the file in the header of the window, “And it’s literally called ‘My Manifesto.’”
“Yeah, how dumb was this kid.”
Taylor just grunted and walked away, picking up the picture he’d been looking for and pulling out the photo of the girl.
“Found something else,” an Agent said, coming out of a closet.
He was carrying a box that had various small items in it.
“Looks to be the left over parts for making a pipe bomb.”
“This is our guy, sure as hell,” said a woman going through his bookcase.
“Ohh, come on,” Taylor muttered under his breath.
An agent nearby gave him a look, but Taylor waved him off and went into the front room to find Whitaker.
“Let’s go,” he said and headed for the front door.
She followed behind Taylor and gave him a half smile when they got outside.
“Don’t worry about it, we all make mistakes. Your points about the choice of targets wasn’t bad, it just didn’t work out that way this time.”
“What are you talking about?” he asked.
“Everything we found in there. Surely even you have to be ready to say the kids a terrorist.”
“You think so?”
“Yep. But like I said, no hard feelings. How about I get you back to Dallas and you can get back to whatever it is you do.”
“You know what I saw in there?” he asked, not moving as she started to walk towards the car. “I saw something that smells fishy as hell.”
“Let’s look at what you guys found. A manifesto that claims he is going to take down the Great Satan, and how he’s willing to give his life to Allah. And you found pieces of a pipe bomb.”
“That’s pretty damning stuff.”
“You know what I see. A kid who bothered to bury his manifesto in random system folders on his computer, but didn’t bother to password protect his computer, put a password on the document, or encrypt anything. The ‘manifesto’ itself is full of rhetoric you will hear echoed on the news, but is surprisingly void of any of the language of these guys.”
“You just said it was full of rhetoric...”
“That you find echoed on the news. I spent a long time with these guys. They’re nut jobs and evil as the day is long, but they are also very specific in how they talk about God and the West and their plans. The language in this file reads like it was written through the lens of a westerner who has heard about their complaints but never looked into it specifically.”
“Ok, what about the left over pieces of the pipe bomb.”