The headliners in the case, of course, are ordinary folks Daniel Patrick Boyd and his two sons, who prosecutors say led three lives: good family men, likeable neighbors and secret terrorists.
The father's path to terrorism began in 1989, according to the indictment unsealed this week, when Daniel Boyd "travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he received military style training in terrorist training camps for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad."
During 1989 and 1991, they say, "Boyd fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union."
He would have been 19 at the time, all of which a former CIA station chief in Pakistan, Milt Bearden, finds odd.
"The Afghans didn't need much help," said Bearden. They accepted Arabs like Osama Bin Laden because they brought money, or miscreants that the Gulf States emptied from their jails, he said, but "their fondest hope was that they would step on a landmine."
And Boyd would have been atypically young for the foreigners who gravitated to Peshawar, jumping off point for the war next door, Bearden added.
The Afghans were "amused" by some of the Americans who showed up in Peshawar full of jihadi passion, Bearden said. But only very few non-Arab Americans ever went into combat with the rebels, and none against the Soviets during the 1980s, it's believed.
And there's another factor that undermines the feds' rap sheet on Daniel Boyd, now 39.
Back in 1991, Steve Coll, a future Pulitzer Prize winner for his reporting from Pakistan, encountered Daniel Boyd, his wife and his brother in Peshawar.
The Boyd brothers were awaiting sentencing on what looked like trumped-up charges of robbing a local bank, which followed a dispute with a bank manager over a $5,000 check.
Nowhere in Coll's lengthy Washington Post feature did Boyd hint that he had actually fought in Afghanistan - an act that would have been loudly applauded at the time, given the popularity of the pre-9/11 jihadis who were killing Russians with CIA help.
Coll described Boyd and his wife Sabrina as erstwhile high school sweethearts and "U.S. citizens who converted to Islam several years ago and moved to Pakistan to do relief work for Afghanistan's mujaheddin rebels" - nothing more.
Their children were hardly more than infants. Sabrina was visually struggling "with what doctors have told her is a potentially fatal kidney ailment," Coll wrote.
"Money was short, hospitals were inadequate, baby supplies were difficult to find, and all their drinking water had to be boiled. Still, as they became increasingly involved in their new religion, said Sabrina Boyd, the hardships were more than worth it," Coll wrote.
Could all this have been a cover story by the Boyds to disguise his combat training and military action with the jihadis on the other side of the sky-high Hindu Kush?
Sure - but not likely, for all the reasons above. But the feds' harder portrait of Boyd as a determined terrorist for two decades is a better sell to a jury.
Whatever the facts in that part of Boyd's resume, his recent accumulation of firearms, as spelled out in the feds' indictment, suggest he was after bigger game than pheasant.
News reports said only that he "amassed weapons" at his North Carolina home, but here they are, culled from the list of criminal acts Boyd is said to have committed:
Bushmaster M4 A3 16-inch patrolman's rifle
Rugi Mini 14-inch long gun
Mossburg ATA 100 .270 caliber rifle and Llama Commanche III .357 revolver
Century Arms AK Sporter 7.62 x 39 rifle
Ruger Mini 30 7.62 x 39 rifle
SAGA .308 rifle
Century Arms Polish Tantal 5.45 x 39 rifle
Century Arms C91 .308 rifle
Century Arms M70B1 7.62 x 34 rifle
Ruger mini 14 5.56 rifle and Smith & Wesson M15 .223 rifle
Boyd is also said to have shown another defendant "how to operate a Kalashnikov (AK 47) in his living room" - without firing it, I assume.
He and his now-grown son Dylan also allegedly gave a Baretta 9 mm handgun and ammunition to an unidentified person "with a conviction on record."
All this was in pursuit of a terrorist conspiracy, the feds say, although there's nothing persuasive in the indictment to show that if it ever existed, it ever got much past the talking stage.
Yet all the assault weapons were acquired in the last two years, evidently, for something.
(They're not actually called "assault weapons," in the vocabulary of relevant federal agencies. They're only "semi-automatic rifles.")
And there's no law against acquiring such an arsenal in a short time - unless you're a convicted felon - even in these post-9/11 years of homeland security fright. Not even records are kept for the feds.
"That's correct," said Drew Wade, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). "There's no federal statute prohibiting that."
It is, however, against the law to talk about committing terrorist acts.