It's been almost a decade since 9/11, but America is forever on the lookout for the Next Big Plot. Even though 45,000 people die every year thanks to not having health insurance, the sensationalized threat of "terrorism" always captures the headlines. (I ain't neva scared, though.) With the country embroiled in two seemingly endless wars, it's not surprising when threats arise from overseas. But it does raise an eyebrow when U.S. citizens get charged with plotting against the States—like this week, when a woman dubbed "Jihad Jane" was accused of being an archenemy of G.I. Joe. Like many of her counterparts, the reasons are a complicated web of political beliefs and religious extremism, sprinkled with some insanity. So to put her story in context, here's a rundown of the highest-profile cases of Americans accused of Jihad...
John Walker Lindh, 2001
When Marin County's own John Walker Lindh was caught fighting for the Taliban shortly after 9/11, many Americans were shocked and more than a little bit intrigued. Supposedly, the Californian was like many teens from his generation: into hip-hop, disgruntled and thought that Spike Lee's portrayal of Malcolm X was pretty interesting. But while some young adults get a Eurorail pass, Lindh wound up in Afghanistan fighting the Northern Alliance. After being captured, he took a 20-year plea deal, and today sits in an Indiana cell. As for hip-hop, only Anticon gave him a shout out.
Jose Padilla, 2002
After Bush launched his attack on civil rights, Jose "Dirty Bomb" Padilla became the poster child for the post-9/11 "enemy combatant" system. The message: anyone can get locked up with no trial for however long deemed necessary. Sketch. After years of legal brawls that reached the Supreme Court, Padilla finally got his day in court and received a 17-year bid. Despite promises by President Obama, today's enemy combatants are still hoping for a day in court. Tell 'em to keep hope alive!
Hasan Akbar, 2003
Originally from Watts Angeles, Hasan Akbar (born Mark Fidel Kools) was the third serviceman since Vietnam sentenced to death for killing a fellow soldier during wartime. While stationed at a Kuwaiti base awaiting deployment into Iraq, Akbar threw grenades into fellow soldiers' tents and fired shots during the chaos. Two officers died. In his journal, Akbar had written, "I may not have killed any Muslims, but being in the Army is the same thing. I may have to make a choice very soon on who to kill." His lawyer argued that Akbar, who spent nine years at UC Davis, was insane. Point taken: Anyone who spends nine years in Davis is a little crazy. No shots.
David C. Headley, 2008
Chicago resident David C. Headley is a shady dude. Born in D.C. to a middle-class family, Headley was arrested in '98 for trying to smuggle heroin into Pakistan. He served less than two years in jail and supposedly agreed to spy for the DEA. Ever since, he's allegedly been involved in masterminding terrorism. Most recently, the FBI claims that he helped orchestrate the brutal Mumbai massacre, where coordinated attacks left 173 people dead and 308 injured. While taking the accusations seriously, India suspects that Headley is still working for the CIA. The plot thickens.
Ramy Zamzam, 2009
In addition to having one of the coolest names ever, Ramy Zamzam is facing charges that he was the leader of a very focused five-man Virginia team—but not one that was going to the Final Four. Authorities claim that the crew sought admittance to a Pakistani extremist group to get their Jihad on. While in custody abroad, Zamzam—a straight-A student at Howard—has accused Pakistani police of administering torture. The FBI's talking about "I knew he'd amount to nothin'," neighbors like, "He was the quiet type, who'da thought they was frontin'?"
Nidal Hassan, 2009
In the deadliest attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan went apeshit at Fort Hood, killing 13 military personnel and wounding 32. After counseling dozens of war vets, the Virginia native viewed U.S. aggression as a war against Islam, at one point arguing that the military should allow Muslim soldiers to be released as conscientious objectors. He was shot and paralyzed during the melee, and now awaits trial in a military prison. Hopefully his own psychiatrist is a little more stable.
Najibullah Zazi, 2009
The former Flushing High School student received a life sentence last month after pleading guilty for conspiring to blow up a NY subway train. After getting versed in explosives in Pakistan, he moved to Denver, where he drove airport vans and supposedly plotted his attack. When he returned to NY, police stopped him on the George Washington Bridge and searched the vehicle. Nothing was found, but he got shook and dropped the plan like, "fuggedaboutit!" He was soon arrested in Denver.
Shirwa Ahmed, 2009
In October 2009, Minnesota's Shirwa Ahmed became the first suicide bomber with U.S. citizenship when he detonated his vehicle in Somalia, killing 30 people. The incident shed light on a group of 20 young men in Minnesota who had allegedly returned to Somalia to fight in wars that their own parents had fled in the '90s. Unlike hip-hop, that period wasn't considered the "Golden Era," but Ahmed and his boys weren't trying to hear it.
Adam Yahiye Gadahn, 2010
This former head-banging heavy metal fan is the highest-ranking American-born Al Qaeda member known. He's also probably the organization's most senior Jew. Born in Oregon but raised in SoCal, Gadahn often drops American dis vlogs on behalf of Bin Laden. This week, the NY Times reported that he had been detained in Pakistan, but later retracted the claim. If captured, he faces the (mega)death penalty for treason.
Colleen LaRose, 2010
The suburban Pennsylvanian is one of only a handful of U.S. women ever charged with terrorism. While allegedly posting in chat rooms under the name "Jihad Jane," the Michigan native threatened to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks for his demeaning depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. Her threats were also apparently a way to show loyalty to her new boo, a South Asian extremist she met online. Thanks again, Internet!