Yesterday, a federal court documents were unsealed and revealed that a Long Island resident had transformed from an altar boy and Boy Scout to Al Qaeda trainee. Bryant Neal Vinas, who pleaded guilty to trying to "conspiring to murder United States nationals"—by way of a rocket attack at an army base—"providing material support to Al Qaeda and receiving military training from the group," admitted to discussing a plan to bomb a Long Island Rail Road train at Penn Station and a subway—hence the terrorist threat last November.
Vinas's parents immigrated from South America to Long Island; his mother told the Post, "He broke my heart. This is not my son. I hope I never see him again." Maria Vinas, who gave up custody of Vinas, also said she lost track of her son when she and her husband divorced, adding, "My husband was very religious. He destroyed my son, obviously." The father, Juan Vinas, told the LA Times his son was very excited when he converted to Islam and tried to convince him to convert as well.
Vinas, 26, had lived in Patchogue before moving to Pakistan, where he joined Al Qaeda. According to court papers, Vinas allegedly provided "expert advice and assistance" derived from his "specialized knowledge" of New York's subways and the LIRR "But several law enforcement sources told the Daily News that Vinas never worked for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and had no more knowledge of commuter trains than the average passenger."
The MTA also issued a statement, "As part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the MTA has been in constant communication with local and federal authorities as the investigation involving Bryant Neal Vinas developed. There was never an imminent threat to the system. The security of our entire transportation network and the safety of our customers continue to be the MTA's top priorities." The MTA added that Vinas was never employed by the MTA or its vendors.
And the president of the Islamic Association of Long Island, Nayyar Imam, who heads the mosque where Vinas had worshipped until over a year ago, told Newsday, "They should lock him up and throw away the key. This is an individual act. It had nothing to do with this mosque and it had nothing to do with this religion." And a neighbor of Juan Vinas said, "The parents are good people. They're very nice. I feel so bad for them."