The possibility that the alleged
Authorities said they believed all four men charged in the attack were
Muslim and that some may have converted in prison. It isn't clear whether these
conversions were linked to the radical views officials say they espoused while
plotting to bomb two
The men were arrested Wednesday in a months-long undercover operation that ended with them allegedly placing what they thought were real explosives in front of the synagogues. The plot was monitored by federal authorities who provided the suspects with fake explosives. The men remain in custody and face federal conspiracy charges.
Concern about jail-house recruitment intensified after the terrorist
attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Authorities in the
Mitchell Silber, director of intelligence
analysis for the New York City Police Department, said there wasn't a
"fire hose" of people coming out of the prison system who have turned
to radical Islam. Most inmates tend to follow what Mr. Silber's
colleagues call "Prislam" -- religion
practiced behind bars but dropped upon release. Nonetheless, he estimated about
10 inmates a year in
The federal Bureau of Prisons sits on the National Joint Terrorism Task
Force, which includes about 40 government agencies. With the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, it has developed a nationwide initiative to detect and disrupt
attempts to radicalize and recruit members in
"While we do not believe there is widespread terrorist-inspired radicalization or recruiting occurring in federal prisons, we do recognize that the potential for inmates to be radicalized is present," said Traci Billingsley, spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Prisons. Ms. Billingsley said between 5% and 6% of the federal inmate population identify as Muslims, a figure unchanged in recent years.
Authorities heightened their efforts in 2005 after a former
"There was a real interest by the federal agencies about what else do we have going on inside those prisons and how vulnerable are those groups because they are disenfranchised," said Brian Parry, former assistant director at California Department of Corrections and a consultant for the FBI. Mr. Parry is helping to build a database to allow prisons to share intelligence with other agencies.
Yehudit Barsky, director of the
The criminal complaint against the
Salahuddin Muhammad, imam at the mosque, has worked for more than 20 years as a chaplain at Fishkill Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison in Beacon, N.Y., according to the Department of Corrections. He said his message at his mosque and in prison visits is much the same: tolerance, and the need for people to take responsibility for their lives.
He said he converted very few people in prison, attributing the small numbers to "bad press" that Islam receives.
Mr. Muhammad said he recognized Mr. Cromitie --
who he said wasn't a mosque member -- but didn't know him or the three other
accused plotters. Mr. Muhammad, who has spent time in state prison for robbery,
has been an imam since 1986 and in
Erik Kriss, spokesman for the New York Department of Correctional Services, said the arrests hadn't raised concerns that inmates are being recruited by radical groups. In two incidents in which radical imams were running Muslim services in state facilities, one was fired and the other disciplined, he said.
"We're aware of the potential of the problem for this," Mr. Kriss said. "That's why we're vigilant that it doesn't become a problem." The prison system videotapes and audiotapes some religious services, while having corrections officers present at others.