The Chicago studios of talk-show superstar Oprah Winfrey and the iconic “Sears Tower” (renamed Willis Tower) were the targets of a terrorist truck-bomb plot in 2009. But initially unbeknownst to federal authorities, two of the conspirators recently were arrested for unrelated state crimes in different parts of the country. The alleged bombers targeted Ms. Winfrey’s Harpo Studios because they resented her popularity and power, while the tower was selected because of its obvious landmark status. The bomb plot itself, planned in 2009, was inspired by militant Islamist hatred of American military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to law enforcement and other sources interviewed by Judicial Watch.
Sources requested anonymity for fear of reprisal by terrorist bomb-plotter associates, as well as retaliation from embarrassed federal law enforcement agents who apparently mismanaged the subsequent counterterrorism case.
The alleged bomb plotters were based in El Paso, Texas and included two longtime friends and associates currently jailed for recent state crimes. They are:
- Emad Karakrah, currently held in Cook County, Illinois Jail on charges of making a false car bomb threat after leading police on a high-speed chase through Chicago with an ISIS flag waving from his car on August 28, 2014. Karakrah sought a plea bargain conference with Judge Evelyn Clay during his last court appearance on November 17, 2014. Karakrah’s public defender stated that she was waiting on additional discovery documents and an assistant state’s attorney disclosed that she was “looking for an FBI report.” Karakrah’s case was continued until December 3, 2014. It is not clear why Karakrah is not in federal custody pending terrorism charges.
- Hector Pedroza Huerta is an illegal alien currently held in the El Paso County Jail. On August 13, Huerta was arrested in El Paso for driving intoxicated, a crime he has been twice convicted of (in 2009 and 2011). The feds quickly took over, charging him for the third time in five years with “reentry of a deported alien,” court records show. A federal magistrate judge granted the government’s order to hold Huerta without bond on August 19 and a few weeks later Huerta pleaded not guilty to the immigration charges, according to court records obtained by JW. But on October 7 Huerta was granted a “rearraignment” that ended up getting reset to October 9. At that “rearraignment” the illegal alien changed his plea to guilty, court records show. He is scheduled for sentencing on December 16 at 9 a.m. in Courtroom 422 at the U.S. District Courthouse in El Paso. Like his friend, Karakrah, it is unclear why Huerta is not facing federal conspiracy charges associated with the Chicago bomb plot. U.S. District Court Judge Frank Montalvo, handling Huerta’s sentencing, had previously presided over one of Huerta’s prior immigration cases (in 2009);
Judicial Watch sources detail that the other conspirators in the 2009 Chicago truck bomb plot are:
- “Omar,” a male in his late-50s to early-60s, of Arabic ethnicity, who drove a taxi and had an ownership interest in a used car dealership and a gas station in suburban El Paso;
- Two of the FBI’s “most wanted” terrorists: Jaber A. Elbaneh and Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumah (a/k/a: “Javier Robles”); and,
- Other, unidentified conspirators.
The plot called for the use of a U-Haul-style trailer, as well as a delivery-style “step van,” that was purchased at auction in El Paso, Texas. Sources say the bombs were constructed with the plastic explosive C-4 and Tannerite, a binary explosive of ammonium nitrate and aluminum designed for detonation by means of a high-velocity firearms cartridge. Officials believe the C-4 explosives were obtained from Fort Bliss, the sprawling US Army base in El Paso, and the Tannerite was brought into the United States from Mexico.Federal law enforcement officials and Illinois police reportedly interdicted the bombers before they arrived in Chicago, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation. It is not clear if federal law enforcement officials were entirely successful in exploiting intelligence opportunities presented by the foiled bomb plot.
Subsequently, two foiled bomb plots in Chicago were orchestrated by undercover FBI agents posing as terrorist co-conspirators: The 2010 Wrigley Field backpack bombing attempted by Sami Samir Hassoun; and a 2012 Jeep-bomb attempt by Adel Daoud.
On Wednesday, November 5, 2014, a 27-year-old Florida man, Sami Osmakac, was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison after being convicted of taking part in a foiled bomb plot that targeted a popular Tampa bar and a hotel-casino. During Osmakac’s trial, federal prosecutors presented evidence that in 2012 Osmakac, a U.S. citizen born in Kosovo, arranged to buy weapons such as a car bomb, machine gun and grenades to target crowded locations in Tampa.
While the FBI elected to publicize and take credit for the two, foiled Chicago and Tampa bomb plots, the Bureau has never released information on the 2009 targeting of Oprah, or explained why it has allowed conspirators to languish in county jails on lesser charges.
Judicial Watch contacted the FBI and Department of Justice several times seeking comment on the alleged 2009 bomb plot targeting Ms. Winfrey, her studios and the Willis Tower – as well as the prosecutions of Mr. Karakrah and Mr. Pedroza-Huerta. The FBI and Department of Justice failed to return our calls for comment.