It's strange because Royer was charged with arranging for some of his DC area paintball buddies to attend LeT training camps in Pakistan after 9/11--he claims to train for their fight against India (LeT was not considered a terrorist group by the USG at the time)--and for a traffic stop in September 2001 while driving in DC where an AK47 was found. He was also affiliated with CAIR. Reason magazine published this article in 2003, which failed to grasp a possible 20 year sentence, although some Islam critics like Daniel Pipes weren't too surprised. Still, he wasn't attempting to kill his fellow Americans, so far as is known.
No telling what Shane is really up to here. The Times published several long letters by Royer from inside prison explaining his views of jihad and AQ, the latter of which he has been consistently critical. He is very well read and articulate, and the letters do not advocate violence or overly blame the west for 9/11. Fascinating reading, actually. But in sifting through them it's hard to know for sure whether he's engaging in what fellow Supermax inmate Zacarias Moussaoui declared permissible at his own trial--lying for jihad.
For instance, Royer was part of the same paintball team associated with one Ali al-Timimi, a computational biology professor at George Mason University who preached jihad to the paintball group. Some have said Timimi had university access to leading biowarfare experts such as Soviet defector Ken Alibek. He was charged and convicted via the rarely-used sedition statute while the FBI was still dangling Steven Hatfill as a person of interest in the anthrax mailings--ironically Shane has been the lead Times reporter on that case.
Could this be why someone like Royer--himself prosecuted under the seldom-used Neutrality Act--ended up at the most secure prison in America? History has shown that prosecutors have not been hesitant to use obscure statutes to justify getting someone they considered dangerous off the streets for a long time if they can't make a terrorism case. Shane quotes some prosecutors as saying Royer was swept up in a show of force after 9/11 even though his public words were nowhere near as incendiary as others espousing violent jihad. But if indeed a show of force can be used to explain his arrest and long sentence why did two members of the paintball team have their charges dropped?
Besides, Royer testified against al-Timimi as part of his deal. Meanwhile al-Awlaki, whom Obama just droned to death, had interactions with some of the hijackers before 9/11 and was invited to the Pentagon to explain moderate Islam shortly thereafter. He also may have had contact with al-Tamimi. According to Shane, Royer's Baptist father is still befuddled:
“He loved his family,” the father said of his son. “Why would he put this cause ahead of his family? I still don’t really know what happened. I’m still trying to figure it out.”Well, even devout Christians would agree that God comes before family and work, but at least in public Royer didn't preach violent jihad. He did work to get some of the paintballers to LeT camps in Pakistan, and did get caught with an AK, but was that worth 20 years or were the Feds worried about something else? Was it the two degrees of separation with Awlaki, or something worse?
Meanwhile, parts of Royer's letters were redacted, whited out, presumably by the Bureau of Prisons (we assume the Times wouldn't do it). Speculation for why could range from him mentioning the names of individuals all the way to spilling more details about something embarrassing that occurred between two of the higher-profile inmates. Rest assured that Shane and the Times won't be developing much interest in that area anytime soon.