U.S. attorney targeted N. Miss. store owners

Posted on September 29, 2009

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Clarion Ledger

Jerry Mitchell
jmitchell@clarionledger.com

The U.S. attorney’s office in Oxford targeted convenience store operators in north Mississippi, many of Middle Eastern descent, despite a lack of any connection to terrorism, according to documents obtained by The Clarion-Ledger.

The Convenience Store Initiative arose from meetings with local law enforcement officers in the years following 9-11 – when Middle Eastern terrorists flew hijacked planes into the Pentagon and World Trade Center Twin Towers.

U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee of Oxford said the government was “looking to see any links to terrorism, but what we found was criminal conduct.”

Instead of arrests for alleged terrorist plots, state and federal officials since 2006 have charged more than 60 people in Mississippi with such illegal acts as the sale of excessive amounts of pseudoephedrine – used to make meth.

Those who ran the Convenience Store Initiative say the FBI found nothing wrong with the initiative, which arose from tips from local law enforcement. In fact, they say the Justice Department in the Bush administration praised the concept.

Those involved in the initiative say the money from the illegal activity was being sent back overseas, where it couldn’t be traced and possibly could have gone to funding terrorism. But they acknowledged the money could have gone to relatives instead.

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