2009 Dallas case shows difficulty of catching 'lone wolf'

Hosam Smadi after his arrest in 2009
Hosam Smadi after his arrest in 2009 WFAA.com

If Orlando mass murderer Omar Mateen was acting alone — self-radicalized and inspired in isolation —he would not be the first.

From Lee Harvey Oswald to Timothy McVea, the “lone wolf” is difficult to detect and intercept.

But seven years ago, federal agents in Dallas did exactly that, some say preventing what could have been another 9/11-style attack.

The most disturbing thing federal agents have learned about Omar Mateen is they wish they knew more four years ago, when he first appeared on their radar.

In 2009, federal agents in Dallas had that chance with another “lone wolf," a would-be terrorist by the name of Hosam Smadi.

Smadi was a 19-year-old Jordanian immigrant living in Ellis County and working at a barbecue stand.

But behind the scenes, Smadi harbored a sinister desire to execute another 9/11-style attack, this time in Dallas.

Smadi’s secret world included producing a video message that federal agents say was intended for Osama Bin Laden.

But federal agents incepted him in an online chat room with other extremists. Former U.S. attorney Jim Jacks says the FBI assigned three undercover agents to engage with Smadi, posing as members of a sleeper cell.

They infiltrated his world as he identified a list of potential targets, all in the Dallas area. As the case progressed, Smadi decided to blow up the 60-story Fountain Place Tower in downtown Dallas.

Agents helped supply him with a truck bomb he later parked in the building's basement. They were with him September 24, 2009, as he tried to detonate that bomb by dialing a number on his cell phone. Full story at WFAA.com.