Three months ago, in the American Proscenium (“By Their Fruits,” February), I posed a question: “Is a lone wolf any less a wolf because he is alone?”

My musings were prompted by the arrest, on December 8, of the Rockford jihadi Derrick Shareef (a.k.a. Talib Abu Salam Ibn), a black convert to the “religion of peace” who began his descent into “violent jihad” when he turned to mainstream Islam.  Or, rather, they were prompted by the reaction of the local media and national commentators who went out of their way to assure us that, since there was no obvious “Al Qaeda connection,” Shareef was a “lone wolf” who never posed much of a threat to the citizens of Rockford or the shoppers at CherryVale, the mall that Shareef had targeted for a grenade attack during Advent.

The absurdity of that statement ought to be obvious: Most murderers act alone, but they still manage to murder.  More to the point, however: When we’re talking about a “lone wolf” Muslim terrorist, is he ever really alone?

The same media outlets that never fail to see a connection between peaceful pro-life demonstrators and abortion-clinic bombers somehow fall as blind as Isaac when the would-be murderer is a Muslim.  The very idea that the ideology of radical Islam might tie him to like-minded people is absurd; he must, by definition, have acted alone.

For Derrick Shareef, that may be true, insofar as his activities here in Rockford are concerned; but we now know that, over the past five-and-a-half years, his ideology brought him into contact with others who shared his desire for violent jihad.

On Wednesday, March 7, in Phoenix, Arizona, the FBI arrested Hassan Abujihaad, a former signalman second class in the U.S. Navy.  Abujihaad (formerly Paul R. Hall) held an e-mail correspondence with jihadist websites in 2001, while stationed on the U.S.S. Benfold in the Persian Gulf.  The correspondence, which ended just nine days before September 11, included praise for the suicide attack on the U.S.S. Cole in October 2000.

In April 2001, according to the federal warrant issued for his arrest, Abujihaad passed classified information to the operators of one of the websites, including:

the makeup of a U.S. Navy battle group, each of its member ships (including a Navy destroyer, the U.S.S. Benfold), the specifications, assignments and missions of each ship, the battle group’s planned movements, and a drawing of the group’s formation when it was to pass through the Straits of Hormuz.

Abujihaad revealed the date (April 29) that the group would pass through the Straits of Hormuz, and he provided specific information about each ship, as well as a general assessment of the group’s vulnerability to attack that bears a chilling resemblance to the assault on the U.S.S. Cole: “They have nothing to stop a small craft with RPG etc. except their Seals’ stinger missiles.”

After Abujihaad received an honorable discharge in January 2002, he moved to Phoenix and was hired on at a major United Parcel Service hub, where he was still working at the time of his arrest.

The case raises many questions, not the least of which is why the U.S. military would place a man who converted to Islam and took the name “Hassan, Father of Jihad” on a Navy destroyer in the Persian Gulf, even before September 11.  More important for our purposes, however, is the role that Derrick Shareef played in the arrest of Abujihaad (who, like Shareef, is black, though you will search in vain for that information in mainstream news reports, even though it is given on the cover sheet of the arrest warrant).

During the investigation of Shareef, which started in September 2006,

Investigators soon learned that Derrick Shareef had previously lived with Abujihaad in Phoenix, Arizona in 2004 . . . As the relationship between Shareef and the [confidential source] progressed, Shareef eventually made an introduction of the CS to Abujihaad, after which the CS communicated with Abujihaad directly via phone or over the internet.

Some civil libertarians have argued that the sequence of events in the Shareef arrest makes it appear that he was set up.  The arrest warrant for Abujihaad, however, proves that the FBI viewed Shareef’s arrest as an important step in catching a much bigger fish.  It describes “post-arrest interviews” during which Shareef told investigators about Abujihaad’s reaction to news reports concerning the arrest of one of the operators of the jihadist websites that Abujihaad had frequented:

Abujihaad was reading an online news article, which Shareef believed to be from the Washington Post’s website.  Abujihaad read the article with Shareef looking over his shoulder.  Abujihaad said, in substance, “I think this is about me” or “I think this article is talking about me.” . . . According to Shareef, . . . Abujihaad became visibly upset and emotional and began to cry.

That Shareef’s arrest was a necessary step in the capture of Abujihaad is confirmed by the sequence of events.  By 11 A.M. CST on the day of Shareef’s arrest, the CS called Abujihaad and revealed details from Shareef’s “post-arrest interviews.”  In other words, the very first thing that the FBI interrogated Shareef about was his relationship with Abujihaad, and the very first thing they did with that information was use it to convince Abujihaad to incriminate himself on tape.

I ended the American Proscenium with another question: “How many lone wolves does it take to make a pack?”  Anyone who knows anything about wolves, however, might suggest a better one: “How likely is it that a lone wolf is really alone?”

After all, even if you only see one, wolves almost always travel in packs.