In Oklahoma on Tuesday, the FBI arrested a possible Saudi terrorist, Naif Abdulaziz Alfallaj, on a charge of visa fraud.
As the New York Times notes, Alfallaj, a Saudi national, is believed to have applied to an al Qaeda training camp in 2000, then came to the United States on a visa in 2011 and attained his Federal Aviation Administration private pilot's license in 2016.
Speaking to the Washington Examiner, Mitch Williams, the owner of the "Chickasha Wings" flight school that trained Alfallaj, said that the Saudi man had wanted to become a professional pilot.
Recall that a number of the Sept. 11 hijackers pursued private FAA licenses, like the one Alfallaj holds, before they pursued FAA commercial pilot licenses. Here's a Chickasha Wings website photo of Alfallaj's first solo flight in January 2017.
How was Alfallaj caught? Good detective work.
The New York Times reports that the FBI "only recently" matched Alfallaj's fingerprints to an al Qaeda application. The bureau did so after its agents or analysts went back through a stockpile of fingerprints recovered from Afghanistan. The FBI then noticed that the fingerprints on Alfallaj's FAA license application matched those of a 2000 application to an al Qaeda terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, al Farook.
Four of the Sept. 11 hijackers were trained at al Farook, and it was regarded as a priority base for the training of terrorists focused on the western world.
There are two major takeaways here.
First, that we're lucky FBI agents or analysts went out of their way to reconsider aged intelligence. In the age of the Islamic State, it is of great credit to the bureau that its employees had the foresight to believe that al Qaeda-related terrorist leads might still be found in documents 16 years old.
Still, this saga isn't all good news for the government.
After all, it must be asked how Alfallaj was able to apply to join al Qaeda, then receive a visa, then commit visa fraud, then gain an FAA pilot's license without being caught?
While Alfallaj hasn't been charged with any terrorism offenses (court records examined by the Washington Examiner only show that Alfallaj received a speeding ticket in 2012 and has a family), it doesn't require an expansive imagination to consider what might have happened if he is a terrorist and was never detected.
Regardless, we must bear something important in mind. While the terrorist threat remains significant, our primary enemy is not and has never been Muslims in America, but rather a small breed of zealots and losers who adopt a fanatical interpretation of Islam. The vast majority of Muslim Americans are great citizen servants.