Five Muslims were arrested after allegedly breaking into a San Antonio courthouse early this morning.
But it wasn’t until police found all kinds of photographs in their van that the feds were called in.
According to WOAI Radio:
Inside the van, officials say they found “photographs of infrastructure” including photos of shopping malls, water systems, courthouses and other public buildings which they say were taken in cities nationwide.
“They got travel documents, parking passes, they have been all over the country,” one law enforcement officials who asked not to be identified told 1200 WOAI’s Michael Board on the scene. “A lot of photographic equipment, a lot of documentation equipment inside their vehicle.”
The San Antonio Express-News reports that the men were wearing sombreros and appeared drunk.
Entering the building through a window in a fourth floor courtroom, three of the men were seen on surveillance video picking up a gavel and later donning sombreros as they made their way to the roof, Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz said.
The men appeared intoxicated, said a Bexar County sheriff’s official earlier, who asked not to be named.
While there is still no evidence that they were planning any terrorist activity, plenty of commenters in the WOAI Radio article are already calling for their heads.
The men told authorities that they broke into the courthouse to climb to the fourth floor in order to get a better view of the city, which seems like a lame excuse.
A felony is a felony regardless of your intentions.
But if the only things connecting them to terrorism are photos and religion, then they could be nothing but low-rate burglars.
However, the story is bizarre enough to have been picked up by the Los Angeles Times.
An FBI spokesman said it was still unclear whether the men were involved in a terrorist plot.
“We’re working to confirm the immigration status of these individuals,” Special Agent Erik Vasys, a spokesman for the FBI’s San Antonio office, told The Times.
Investigators from the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were questioning the men Wednesday morning, Vasys said.
“We don’t see that there’s any public safety threat ongoing,” he said. “We’re sorting out who these individuals are and what their motivations were and if there is any federal violation to pursue.”
While many people will no doubt say the photographs is evidence that they were planning terrorist activity, there has never been any evidence that terrorists take photos of their intended targets beforehand.
The 9/11 terrorists didn’t photograph anything. Nor did the London transport bombers, the Madrid subway bombers, or the liquid bombers arrested in 2006. Timothy McVeigh didn’t photograph the Oklahoma City Federal Building. The Unabomber didn’t photograph anything; neither did shoe-bomber Richard Reid. Photographs aren’t being found amongst the papers of Palestinian suicide bombers. The IRA wasn’t known for its photography. Even those manufactured terrorist plots that the US government likes to talk about — the Ft. Dix terrorists, the JFK airport bombers, the Miami 7, the Lackawanna 6 — no photography.
UPDATE: The alleged terrorists turned out to be a group of drunk French-Morrocans.
Ortiz said the five may not have even known what the Courthouse was, and they had no intention of harming anybody. He says no weapons were found in their possession, and he says they are in the U.S. on a ninety day tourist visa which remains valid.
Ortiz conceded that this case has gotten a lot of scrutiny, due to the fact that the men have Arabic names and are from another country.
“If it had been some kids here locally that broke into the Courthouse as a prank, then it would have been treated differently,” he said.