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The FBI and the Terrorists Among Us

I’m disturbed by the news of the New York terror plot uncovered by the FBI–four individuals who’d hoped to bomb a Riverdale synagogue and down a plane at Newburgh’s Stewart Air Force Base.  I’ve been following the story as reported in the N.Y. Times and just read Robert Dreyfuss’ piece in The Nation, which finally galvanized me to writing this.

James Cromitie, petty criminal and Riverdale terror suspect

James Cromitie, petty criminal and Riverdale terror suspect

I have no problem with the FBI being vigilant in pursuing leads regarding individuals who plan terror attacks in this country.  But I have a very serious problem with the FBI blackmailing Muslims who’ve violated the law, inducing them to entrap other Muslims in terror plots essentially devised or at least inspired by the FBI and its informant, Shahed Hussain:

Everyone called the stranger with all the money “Maqsood.” He would sit in his Mercedes, waiting in the parking lot of the mosque in Newburgh, N.Y., until the Friday prayer was over. Then, according to members of the mosque, the Masjid al-Ikhlas, he approached the young men.

He asked Shakir Rashada, 34, if he wanted to come over for lunch. He offered Shafeeq Abdulwali, 39, a job, perhaps at his construction company. Jamil Muhammed, 38, said he was offered cellphones and computers.

The man, a Pakistani, occasionally approached the assistant imam of the mosque, proposing meetings, or overpaying for a sandwich he would buy at a mosque fund-raiser. In time, many of the mosque’s older members had made the man for a government informant, according to mosque leaders. They said that he seemed to focus most of his attention on younger black members and visitors.

“It’s easy to influence someone with the dollar,” said Mr. Muhammed, a longtime member of the mosque. “Especially these guys coming out of prison.”

Onta Williams, drug dealer and terror suspect

Onta Williams, drug dealer and terror suspect

If you read about the four suspects you can tell they couldn’t organize their way out of a paper bag, let alone execute a terror attack without the connivance of the informant, who also played a similar role in an earlier “terror plot.”

N.Y. police commissioner Raymond Kelly defines entrapment thus:

“…The law says you have to be otherwise not disposed to do the crime to successfully use the defense of entrapment.”

David Williams IV, terror suspect

David Williams IV, terror suspect

Though these suspects had gone to prison, none of their crimes verged on the seriousness of this terror plot.  They were penny-ante grifters whose worst offense seemed to be drug dealing.  I don’t see any disposition to engage in an act of terror without the presence of a human catalyst, who was the informant.

If you read this account by the Times of the trolling this individual did at local mosques seeking out young, impressionable Muslim men, it becomes clear that this was not an investigation which sought out individuals predisposed to harming Jews or downing aircraft.  This was an FBI informant who was cultivating relationships and planting ideas in the minds of poor shlubs who had little going for themselves other than the bucks thrown their way by this person, and dreams of making their mark as a terrorist wannabe.

I want to make it clear that I’m not downplaying the very real danger of Muslim terror in this country and elsewhere.  9/11 was a tragedy which happened and which no one wishes to see repeated.  But there are ways of protecting the homeland, and there are ways of ginning up hysteria with half-baked terror plots hatched from the brain of FBI agents and the criminals they induce to do their dirty work for them.

This statement from the imam of the mosque the FBI informant targeted is disturbing:

The imam in Newburgh, Salahuddin Mustafa Muhammad, said he was angry that the informant had associated his mosque with the scheme that had nothing to do with regular members. He condemned the plot, but questioned whether the men who were arrested would have committed to it had the informant not shown up.

Mr. Muhammad said he wondered whether he should have done anything differently once he had suspicions about the man named Maqsood.

“How do you go to the government about the government?” he asked.

This is the kind of thing that happens when government agencies prey on those who are not citizens or who don’t feel fully confident of exercising their rights if they are. This imam didn’t realize he could complain to his congressional representative, hire a lawyer to pressure the FBI to stop its activities, turn to Muslim-American defense groups, etc. For this reason, I value the work of American Islamic groups like CAIR, which defend the rights of Muslims to practice their religion and express their political views as any American citizen can.

Though right-wing American Jews deride CAIR as a front group for Islamist terror, in truth it is doing what American Jewish defense groups like the American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League have been doing for decades–lobbying on behalf of Jewish interests. The problem that some Jews have with CAIR is that it is doing precisely what these Jewish groups have done. In their view, what’s permissible and even laudatory for American Jews becomes suspect when it comes to American Muslims. Such a double standard is hypocritical and deeply unfair.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • rfjk May 24, 2009, 6:25 AM

    This is a lingering obscenity of 8 years of judicial and law enforcement criminally conducted by the FBI and courts during the Bush administration. This case like practically all before it will wind up in hung juries, acquittals or appeals. The new regime will probably stop these criminal practices, but unfortunately for those currently entrapped or falsely charged their cases have to play out in the legal system.

    • Mary May 24, 2009, 7:40 AM

      The Sears Tower knuckleheads were convicted, and that case was even flimsier than this one. There is no reason to think these guys won’t go to prison for something or other. That seems to be the way these new terrorist prosecutions are going. No one is acquitted, they’re all convicted under the umbrella law of “giving material support”. With Obama flip-flopping all over the place regarding the prosecution of so-called terrorists, anything can happen and there is no evidence showing he will change these arbitrary prosecution procedures for the better. The FBI definitely needs to be put on a tighter leash and should not be allowed carte blanche in how it operates “in the field”. If this case isn’t entrapment, I don’t know what is.

  • Ilene May 24, 2009, 9:25 AM

    It’s more than a double standard between Jewish and Muslim groups Richard. The Jewish groups have gone way out of their way to actually criminalize Muslim groups, get their tax exemptions pulled, their assets frozen and their principals indicted and jailed. And they’ve been quite successful.

    The Daniel Pipes lawfare conference that Specter was recently shamed into not attending was a thin cover for “tort reform” pushed in Congress to prohibit Muslims from pursuing libel suits against neocon lies about Islam and Muslims. Juxtaposed against sweeping worldwide anti-semitism laws which prohibit and criminalize even truthful criticism against Jews and Judaism, the hypocrisy is breathtaking.

  • marc gopin May 24, 2009, 9:35 AM

    Thanks for this, I blogged on this also, and was also disturbed. I think we should follow this case further to ascertain all the facts.

  • DICKERSON3870 May 24, 2009, 3:24 PM

    RE: “In their view, what’s permissible and even laudatory for American Jews becomes suspect when it comes to American Muslims. Such a double standard is hypocritical and deeply unfair.”

    2. Highly Compartmentalized Minds
    As I said earlier, authoritarians’ ideas are poorly integrated with one another. It’s as if each idea is stored in a file that can be called up and used when the authoritarian wishes, even though another of his ideas–stored in a different file–basically contradicts it….

    3. Double Standards
    When your ideas live independent lives from one another it is pretty easy to use double standards in your judgments. You simply call up the idea that will justify (afterwards) what you’ve decided to do. High RWAs seem to get up in the morning and gulp down a whole jar of “Rationalization Pills.”…..

    4. Hypocrisy
    You can also, unfortunately, find a considerable amount of hypocrisy in high RWAs’ [Right-Wing Authoritarians’] behavior. For example, the leaders of authoritarian movements sometimes accuse their opponents of being anti-democratic and anti-free speech when the latter protest against various books, movies, speakers, teachers and so on. They say leftists impose restrictions for “political correctness.”…..

    ABOVE EXCERPTS FROM: “The Authoritarians” (261 pages), by Bob Altemeyer, Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba

    FREE PDF DOWNLOAD – http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/
    ALTERNATE SITE – http://members.shaw.ca/jeanaltemeyer/drbob/TheAuthoritarians.pdf

  • Julian May 25, 2009, 5:02 AM

    I hope they lock up these degenerates for the rest of their lives. The FBI have them on videotape planting what they thought was a bomb meant to kill Jews and any other Americans in the vicinity.
    Good work by the FBI.
    CAIR is not just a Civil Rights organization. Not with members like Randall Royer civil rights coordinator, Ghassan Elashi founder of Cair’s Texas chapter, Bassem Khafagi community relations director, Rabih Haddad Cair fund raiser, all convicted of terrorism related crimes.
    This is an organization that Steve Pomerantz former FBI head of counter terrorism stated: “Cair, it’s leaders and it’s activities effectively give aid to international terrorist groups.”

    • Richard Silverstein May 25, 2009, 12:26 PM

      You’re little more than a propagandist. These individuals are innocent till proven guilty. Calling them “degenerates” is disgusting and ad hominem besides. Plus I simply don’t believe anything you say barring evidence. Your future comments will be moderated.

      As for CAIR, I dare you to prove that ANY of its employees have been convicted of “terrorism related crimes.” A mere claim by you that something is true fails the credibility test sans proof. I have no idea who Steve Pomerantz is & I’ve followed this issues for several yrs. quite closely & certainly don’t believe a thing you claim unless you can provide evidence to back it up.

  • Margaret May 25, 2009, 11:12 AM

    Julian – I believe it was you who challenged the idea that there was wide-spread support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Israel-Palestine. Consequently, it is no surprise that you view others as ‘degenerates’ – a word meaning “to fall below a normal or desirable level in physical, mental, or moral qualities.” In order to deny reality as you do, one must be able to dehumanize others, to sustain the idea that they are ‘other’ than oneself. Usually, that happens when one doesn’t consider oneself quite up to the norm.

    Under any circumstances, such an attitude toward others is offensive to others; when it results in a desire to eliminate the ‘other,’ it is something to be opposed.

  • Julian May 26, 2009, 4:32 AM

    Once again I prove you wrong. Here is your CAIR member convicted of terrorism related charges: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghassan_Elashi
    “Ghassan Elashi was a founder of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), and was a member of the founding board of directors of the Texas branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Elashi was also vice president of InfoCom Corporation of Richardson, Texas, indicted along with Hamas terrorist Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook.[1] InfoCom, an Internet company shared personnel, office space, and board members with the HLF. The two organizations were formed in California around the same time, and both received seed money from Hamas leader Marzook.[2] Elashi was arrested in December 2002 for conspiracy, money laundering, and dealing in the property of a designated terrorist. In 2005, Elashi and two of his brothers were convicted on 21 counts of federal terrorism charges related to funding Hamas and the illegal export of electronics equipment to U.S. State Department-designated state sponsors of terrorism.[3]
    Also the FBI has cut ties with CAIR, due to it’s ties to terrorism.”
    Read the article. Maybe Fox News is lying?
    You had no problem making unproven accusations against innocent people like Rosen and Weissman because you don’t like their politics, yet jump to the defense of career criminals arrested for terrorism. These convicted felons are not degenerates? What would you call them good citizens?

    • Richard Silverstein May 26, 2009, 12:57 PM

      These convicted felons are not degenerates?

      That’s the 2nd time you’ve called Muslims degenerates. You’ve twice violated my comment rules & have lost yr comment privileges.

      As to yr charges, the conviction you mention for Elashi is under appeal. I wouldn’t expect you to note that since you’re a legal ignoramus and avowed anti-Muslim propgandist.

      Therefore he is NOT a felon since he has not yet served any jail time. Since the Bush gov’t failed to convict on the 1st attempt & the evidence is unbelievably flimsy, I’m firmly convinced the matter will be overturned on appeal. I also note the Bush judicial venue was in the Houston suburbs, Bush ancestral territory & one of the most conservative districts in the country. Next, Elashi was a board member of a LOCAL CHAPTER of CAIR, not the national organization. Do you have any evidence that any national leader or staff of CAIR has been convicted? Unlike you, I don’t blame an entire organization for the actions of a board member of a local chapter (& that’s assuming Elashi did anything wrong, which will be adjudicated on appeal).

      Just because the FBI suspended contact with CAIR means very little to me. The FBI has done lots of stupid things in its day. This very well could be one of them.

      You neglect to mention that after the FBI severed formal contacts with CAIR that the entire American Muslim community did the same to the FBI. Not that you’d care since you think the whole bunch of ’em should be thrown in a concentration camp I imagine.

      career criminals arrested for terrorism

      You mean career criminals entrapped by the FBI into alleged acts of terror. Since you understand and value our constitution, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to convict them before they’ve even been tried…Or would you?

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