Letter: Media inflated story of Ciccolo terror plot

Posted

To the editor:

On July 4, Alexander Ciccolo was arrested in Adams as a suspected terrorist, following a nearly year-long investigation by four federal agencies and nine local police forces. It didn't take long for the story to spread.

The New York Times referred to the incident as a "Terror Bomb Plot." CBS News referred to it as an "ISIS-inspired terror plot." ABC News reported on "the domestic threat post by ISIS." They also claimed that the FBI found among his personal effects "jihad paperwork." Apparently, even jihad isn't free of bureaucracy. The reporting regarding Ciccolo's "terrorist bomb plot" was almost entirely uniform, with some fringe exceptions.

Ciccolo unwittingly began sharing his intentions with an FBI informant, appointed after Ciccolo's father tipped off law enforcement. Ciccolo's alarming ambitions included plans to attack two bars, a police station, and an unnamed out of state university. He allegedly "drew a map of the states in which he was interested in carrying out attacks" and planned to rob a gun store (how does one rob a gun store without a gun?). He was also apparently well versed in terrorism protocol, reportedly claiming that any Muslim seen during his attack "would be permitted to help, sit tight or leave." Ciccolo told the informant that he needed "tons of ammo" and was going to execute students and display the massacre live on the Internet.

Ciccolo's fantastical terror plans make more sense once contrasted against the backdrop of his long history of mental illness. He has no connection at all to any terror groups. There is no evidence that he was acting on any beliefs prior to communication with the informant. Ciccolo was only able to procure weapons when police provided them (until that point, Ciccolo may have been the only person in Adams without a gun).

Ciccolo was quite simply a mentally ill wannabe criminal; a dangerous one, to be sure. However, classifying this as a thwarted terrorist operation is plainly hyperbolic. Prosecutors apparently agreed and only charged Ciccolo with gun possession, following a parade of triumphant rhetoric.

All of this, taken together, strongly calls into question the seriousness of this terror plot and the reporting surrounding it. The media chose to focus laser-like on Ciccolo's dubious connections to radical Islam rather than his long-standing mental illness.

Was this the beginning of ISIS in America, or a deeply troubled youth with a history of mental illness and no connection whatsoever to reality, let alone the Middle East? The readers should decide for themselves.

Rich Herbert Pittsfield

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