Inside Bomber Row

How America's most dangerous criminals mix with a Who's Who of the global jihad in a Colorado prison

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There are eight cells in Rudolph's "range," and another eight on the level above him. For security reasons, he is not allowed to name his fellow prisoners, but he says there is one American who never comes out of his cell; according to sources outside the ADX, the silent American is Kaczynski. Rudolph says the rest of his neighbors are such nationalities as Egyptian, Sudanese and Palestinian. He writes that his area of the prison is "where they house the political offenders, what they call 'terrorists.'" There are many such men at ADX. The list of Arab inmates reads like a Who's Who of the international jihad. Apart from the bombers already mentioned, there are, among others, Zacarias Moussaoui, the sole individual convicted of involvement in the 9/11 attacks; Ahmed Ressam, arrested at the Canadian border with explosives he had planned to use to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport; and Abdul Hakim Murad, convicted in Operation Bojinka, a 1995 al-Qaeda scheme to blow 12 planes, 11 of them U.S.-bound, out of the sky during a 48-hour period.

A correctional officer at ADX told me that inmates are placed on the same range based on their compatibility. Another clue as to why jihadists are housed together comes from Bureau of Prisons director Harley Lappin's 2003 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said that his department's strategy was to ensure that "inmates with terrorist ties do not have the opportunity to radicalize or recruit other inmates." They are kept at ADX because, he noted, it's "our most secure facility."

But is it secure enough? For the first decade after the ADX was built, the citizens of Florence weren't worried much about the secretive compound, which is only conspicuous when the sun goes down and its banks of light towers glow against the dark horizon. But when Moussaoui, the crazed 9/11 wannabe hijacker, arrived to considerable media fanfare in May 2006, some locals started to feel as if they were living beside a tempting terrorist target. People weren't so much concerned that someone would break out of the fortified ADX, but rather they wondered what would prevent an al-Qaeda squad, perhaps a suicide attacker, from breaking in. At the same time, they were hearing rumors about internal security problems at the Supermax, as the prison is sometimes called. "There's a lot we should be scared about in this little town, with those individuals up there," said Cindy Cox, the mayor of Florence. "Some think that since they're in prison, they're not terrorizing anyone anymore. But what about their friends?"

The federal complex is located only a couple of chip shots away from a combined golf course and housing development. While the two higher-security prisons there have walled yards, the entire campus is separated from the community by only a single barbed-wire cow fence. State representative Buffie McFadyen, a two-term Democrat whose district includes the prisons in Fremont County, has pressed members of Congress, to no avail, to appropriate funds to build a solid wall around the complex, along with a central guard tower to better protect the center from outside attack. The Bureau of Prisons has already failed four times to squeeze money into its budget to upgrade security. McFadyen has also campaigned to remedy what a federal arbitrator has called dangerous understaffing at the ADX. "The threat comes from both inside and outside the prison," McFadyen says.

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