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photo of arabic hotmail and fbi agentsjoin the discussion: How do you assess the way the government handled the 'Lackawanna Six' case?  Based on Sahim Alwan's interview and other information in this report, how great a threat do you think this group was?


What scares me the most is the way some of your viewers have responded to this story.

Violating some people's individual rights in the name of protecting our country is the kind of logic that will destroy this nation. Assassinating the young man in Yemen without a fair trial is murder. Also finding someone guilty of committing a crime unwittingly puts every citizen at risk of being a victim of the prejudice of the CIA and FBI. Please continue to keep us informed.

fullerton, ca


It is a slippery slope we step onto when we adopt policies of pre-emptive attack and assassinations. We perceive the justification in these actions as defensive, but we must be prepared to reap what we sow, as others will see these actions as offensive.

The "52 cards" given our soldiers in Iraq of people "of interest" to be either captured or killed sets a horrible precedent. How do we know there isn't by now the Muslim equivalent of U.S. citizens to be captured or killed?

We used to be a nation of laws and high principles. When we abandon what we stand for we become no better than our cowardly enemies.

Eric Lorgus
West Chester, PA


Your Sleeper Cell piece was very well done and covered many bases. For any of you out there wondering just how dangerous these cells are, or not, please read Bernard-Henri Levy's new book, Who Killed Daniel Pearl? We better wake up and realize that we are all walking a very fine line here between losing our liberties and/or our lives. It sure woke me the hell up and I thought I was very awake.

K.A. Armijo
San Francisco, CA


Thank you for presenting, in your telecast and Web resources, some of the civil liberties issues raised by the "War Against Terrorism," and especially the authorization by President Bush, in our name as citizens of the U.S.A., of assassination, itself a form of terrorism.

In the aftermath of Watergate, and a congressional investigation of the CIA's assassination attempts of the 1960's, a policy against such state-sponsored terrorism was wisely enacted. As we approach the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, we might well demand that the government itself be taken back out of this assassination business, and back into the realm of decency, democracy, and due process of law.

Margo Schulter
Sacramento, California


This seems like a pretty clear case of guilt by association to me. I don't think these guys really knew the full extent of what they were getting into until they were already pretty deep, that Jihad, in this case, meant the murder of innocents.

Besides, had 9/11 never occurred, who would have cared where the 'Lackawanna Six' were going and what they were doing?

These Americans are in jail simply because they got too close (unwittingly, I think) to al Qaeda. Is it that simple to prove treason?

Fargo, ND


An excellent series -

Nice to see a realistic media portrayal of Terrorists that does NOT GO overboard on how the "rights" of these EVIL MONSTER are being violated and ignores the very real threat to the USA posed by the Terrorists.

PBS managed to present this side of the issue but did so in a well balanced fashion without the usual sob story the Liberal crowd is so notorious for doing (the stories about Camp X_ray that we hear so often for instance).

George M Weinert V
Chicago, IL


Facts are facts. They willingly left the US and participated in terrorism training with Bin Laden. There is no way around that fact. I don't care if they came back (some did and some didn't... I wonder where the "martyr" is these days) and claimed they were on a religious retreat. We are supposed to trust them and talk about religious freedom? Are we truly to believe that they didn't know where they were going? Who really is paranoid here? The majority of the population against terrorists, or the "intellectuals" who talk about freedom?

Dan Edwards
Charlotte, NC


Last night's program on the six was very interesting. I thought you might have devoted more attention to explaining what the crime was that these people actualy committed. The whole thing seemed to be based on fear that is so prevalent currently in the U.S.

The CIA rocket that wiped out the lives of people travelling in a car in Yemen was very revealing. One indeed wonders who the real terrorists are. It seems that an American administration that incarcerates people without charge (in Cuba) and who kills its own citizens (in Yeman) has an good claim on being the leading terrorist organization in the world.

Jim Garwood
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


Last week it was "Truth, War, and Consequences", and now it is "Chasing the Sleeper Cell". I guess next it will be: "Misunderstood Arabian Prince...the Bin Laden Story".

Tune in to find out why a rich, religious, sincere young man was driven to murder by decadent western culture, and how George Bush lied about him to steal Arab oil, and take away every American's legal rights.

You must think we are fools.

A. Koskela
Phoenix, AZ


I thought that your program on the Lackawanna group was extremely well-balanced, but made it evident that these young American men had veered so far toward credal fanaticism that they considered the world-wide political situation of their co-religionists much more important than the safety of the nation that nutured them.

Their willingness to experience that extremism in action by participating in martial training outside the United States -- the root of which is the destruction of this country and its citizenry -- paints their "exploratory adventure" as both a crime and a betrayal of our national heritage as we confront the War on Terrorism. As such, they are analogous to German-American sympathizers to Nazism during our war against the Axis Powers, and find themselves paying for the consequences of their poor choices.

D. Guerra
RTP, North Carolina


Your show was very enlightning. I, for one am very impressed the U.S. is taking care of folks like Kamal Derwish. Do I care if he was an American citizen? Not if he's recruiting young men to train secretly in an Al Qaeda training camp. Seems like he was more of an anti-American citizen with terror in his heart. Who knows what jihad wrath he could have brought America. Thank God we don't have to find out.

Eric Haynes
Honolulu, Hawaii


Your investigation was eye-opening into the murky waters of "counterterrorism."

I find it interesting that your show was followed by a documentary on Watergate. I see many parallels between the curent war on terrorism and the then war on communism. Perhaps history does repeat itself.

Thank you for remaining committed to high quality, scientific, and through investigative reporting. This show shows Frontlines commitment to the highest journalistic (and not commercial) standards.

Don Wall
Palo Alto, CA


I think this time the FBI got it right. However, - and I don't know if it was edited or not, but - the FBI and for that matter any other law enforcement officials interviewed, did not do an adequate job explaining just what exactly goes on inside those terror camps. They are in fact just that."Terrorist Training Camps." It may have been somewhat discomforting for the public, but it should have been more fully laid out.

Persons there are trained there in the art of deception, lying, misinformation and using their best efforts to lay-low and not draw attention to themslves until they are "activated." Any person coming out of an Al-Qaeda camp specificially will be trained in the use of various torture methods, killing methods, surveillance for setting up counter-intelligence. Expert use of poisons, explosives, kidnapping, hostage-taking, and of course weapons from small arms to shoulder fired missiles. Concordently, ANYONE visiting these camps should be viewed as a direct and imminent threat. It was clearly obvious to me that the incarcerated Lackawanna individual with whom you spoke had paid close attention while in Al-Qeada's lying and deception class. His answers defied logic.

No -- while no big fan of the FBI, I think they got this one REALLY right.

Les Hayes
Chicago, Illinois


It is inconceivable to me that Frontline would produce a program defending people who betray our country.

I can't imagine the media in the 1930's publishing stories defending German spies living in American, but Frontline and the NY Times have done the equivalent.

Mr Alwan knew exactly where he was going and he should be a warning to any one else who thinks a trip to a terrorist camp can be passed off as an innocent jaunt. It isn't and we have 3,000 of our citizens dead to prove it.

These people are dangerous and yet the media discounts that at every turn, trying to instead portray our own government as dangerous. We have bred an alien nation within our borders of people who come here, take advantage of all the opportunities, but harbor hate for us and our government. Last time I checked, it was a right not a privledge to come here. If the people in Lackawanna are ambivalent about the US, let them go back to Yemen or where ever they came from. There are millions of people who die for the chance to come here and live free.

Your program said we should fear that Mr Derwish was killed by the US goverment. I for one sleep easier knowing that a terrorist like Mr Derwish is dead and cannot do any more harm. You confuse Mr Derwish's citizenship with allegiance to our country. Clearly he was actievly working to destroy our country.

Any actions our government takes against people who ally themselves with such hatred are justified. What is bewildering is how the American media has aligned itself with the enemy when our country is at war. Do you have any doubt that Osama Bin Laden would kill as many of us as he possibly could? Isn't that the real story here?

Gail Duffley
San Francisco, CA


Tonight I viewed your production "Chasing the Sleeper Cells" and cannot shake the feeling that you did not dig deep enough, nor did you go anywhere near the obvious, politically explosive questions regarding divided loyalties.

"Why did YOU even go over there (to Afghanistan, to be with al Qaeda, to meet with Usama bin Laden) AT ALL anyway?" How can you justify consorting with killers and terrorists that plot and scheme against your own country, and with your Muslim faith?

Considering the history of violent and radical behaviors that have emanated from that part of the world, and the lying, specious demeanors of these particular miscreants, how does that line of reasoning not strike at the very heart of this matter?

Robert Hunnicutt
Vail, Arizona


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posted october 16, 2003

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