Wary of a number of federal anti-terror cases that proved to be overblown, two legal experts Tuesday cautioned about attaching too much significance to the arrest Tuesday of six Muslims for plotting to attack Fort Dix in New Jersey.

The federal government’s strategy to aggressively intervene early with any suspected terrorism plot, no matter how small, has sometimes resulted in prosecutions that failed to live up to their initial billing.

“The fact is that most of those arrested (in the past) are small fry and wanna-bes,” said Daniel Benjamin, a terrorism expert and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “That’s a reflection of the fact that al-Qaida has a hard time getting people in here and has higher priorities.”

Federal prosecutors in New Jersey were quick to note that the six men arrested Tuesday — all from the former Yugoslavia and the Middle East — had no known ties to international terrorists. But the arrests were initially announced from the White House, attaching a significance that implied it was more than a homegrown conspiracy.

Benjamin said he knew too little about the allegations to draw a conclusion about the seriousness of the threat. The fact that the New Jersey men took a video of themselves firing assault weapons to a store for copying onto DVDs, he said, “somewhat indicates they weren’t the A team of terrorists.”


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