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FBI didn't seem to take New York terrorism plot seriously

November 21, 2011 |  4:06 pm

Jose Pimentel
The FBI was noticeably absent from the weekend raid that led to the arrest of terrorism suspect Jose Pimentel in New York, and there were indications on Monday that federal officials were not convinced he was a serious threat.

Sgt. Ed Mullins of the New York Police Department, who is president of the Sergeants Benevolent Assn., said he found the FBI’s absence odd.

“Is it a case the feds chose not to be involved in?” he said in an interview. “This seems to be the question of the day. My understanding is we generally work together.”

A federal source in Washington said the New York police had been leading the investigation into Pimentel since 2009, collecting evidence and bringing it to the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force. The task force, which pairs federal and local law enforcement in counter-terrorism cases, made the final decision on who would prosecute Pimentel.

“At some point in time, I don’t know when, the case was assessed and an evaluation was made,” the source told The Times, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The 27-year-old convert to Islam was arrested Saturday afternoon by New York police and accused of plotting to blow up U.S. targets, including American soldiers returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of preparing to launch a one-man holy war in New York City.

Prosecution by the state allows conspiracy charges to be filed even though Pimentel was allegedly working alone.

New York police spokesman Paul Browne said Pimentel converted to Islam in 2004 or 2005, while living in Schenectady, N.Y.  “I’m not clear what drew him to Islam,” Browne said.

He noted that Pimentel was going through a divorce about the same time as his conversion. “Whether that is related is unclear. Half the country goes through a divorce,” Browne said.

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-- Geraldine Baum and Tina Susman in New York and Richard A. Serrano in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Jose Pimentel appears in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City. Credit: Jefferson Siegel-Pool/Getty Images

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