Archive for FBI

Neo-Nazi who Was Defended by Robert Spencer Arrested by the FBI

Posted in Feature, Loon People with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2012 by loonwatch

In May of 2010, Douglas Story‘s vehicle was photographed containing anti-Islam slogans and neo-Nazi symbols:

Is this the back of some neo-nazi’s truck, or the cover of Robert Spencer’s next book?

CAIR filed a complaint with the Virginia Department of Transportation about the “license plate of Douglas Story” claiming that the numbers “14″ and “88″ were symbolic neo-Nazi code.

As Loonwatch contributor Rousseau reported at the time,

CAIR picked up on this loony truck driver’s mural and then apparently noticed his license plate number, which read “14CV88.” Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of CAIR, argued that this number was code for neo-Nazi white supremacist ideas; Hooper explained: “…Among neo-Nazis, 88 refers to ‘Heil Hitler,’ because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet. White supremacists sometimes use the number 14 as shorthand for the 14-word motto, ‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.’”

Story denied being a neo-Nazi, saying instead that the numbers on his license plate referred to his favorite NASCAR racers. This turned out to be a lie…more anti-Muslim so-called taqiyyah if you will.

CAIR was correct that Story was a White Supremacist. The Washington Post’s Brigid Schulte reported just a couple of days later that Douglas Story’s Facebook page was replete with white supremacist associations:

Arguing that his license plate was purely about NASCAR and had nothing to do with race, Story told me that he had a Jewish sister-in-law and had attended his niece’s bat mitzvah. He denied being anti-Semitic.

But here’s how he describes himself on Facebook:

“100% WHITE MAN, 100% ARYAN, 100% PRO-LIFE (Children are innocent), 100% PRO DEATH PENALTY (Criminal Scum aren’t innocent).
Over the past 28 years; I, like David Duke, have had an Awakening.”

Note to self: In these days of social media, Twitter and personal oversharing on the web, always check Facebook…

When I called Story to ask about the Facebook page, he continued to maintain that his license plate message had nothing to with racism. He stuck by his NASCAR story. “Southern white men. Southern white sport. What else needs to be said?” he said.

Story acknowledged that he thinks of himself as 100 percent Aryan. “Aryan is a Sanskrit word that means noble,” he said, “no matter what spin the liberal media tries to put on it as being a racist, hate word.”

He said he is an admirer of David Duke, who, he said was “reamed by the media because of his Klan affiliations.” “I am a white nationalist,” Story said. “I am in favor of the whites having their own homeland.” When I asked him where that homeland would be, he said he didn’t know. “The Pacific Northwest maybe. Alaska. Denmark. Greenland. Iceland.”

I asked if he really thought that the Holocaust was a hoax. “I don’t know what to think,” he said.

Rather than condemn Story, Spencer offered this initial defense,

Hamas-linked CAIR smears anti-jihad Virginia driver as Neo-Nazi

…CAIR’s whole story was false in the first place: the driver in question, Douglas Story, is not a neo-Nazi at all, but a racing fan. The alleged code numbers for neo-Nazi slogans were actually favorite race car drivers’ numbers.

Will Honest Ibe Hooper apologize to Douglas Story? Come on, Ibe! It would be the decent thing to do!

Spencer also argued the entire episode was a ploy by CAIR to link “anti-jihadists” like Spencer to neo-Nazi white supremacists,

The implication of the story, of course, was that anti-jihadists are neo-Nazis — which, despite the febrile fantasies of libelblogger Charles Johnson and his cohort, CAIR’s amiable stomach-stapled beekeeper Honest Ibe Hooper, flies in the face of the facts…

Spencer never apologized for being so horribly wrong about his “anti-Jihadist” buddy being a White Supremacist. Instead he posted a one sentence update saying, “The Washington Post has uncovered evidence that Douglas Story is indeed a white supremacist racist. In that case, he deserves whatever he gets from the DMV.”

In a new twist to this story, yesterday, Douglas Story was arrested by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force “after allegedly receiving a fully automatic AK-47 from an undercover agent.”

A Manassas man accused of being a white supremacist was arrested Wednesday by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force after allegedly receiving a fully automatic AK-47 from an undercover agent.

Court records show Douglas Howard Story, 48, of the Manassas area, allegedly provided a semi-automatic AK-47, along with $120, to an undercover law enforcement agent with the intent that it be modified to become fully automatic. He then allegedly received the modified weapon from an undercover agent and was subsequently arrested, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil H. MacBride and FBI  Assistant Director for the Washington Field Office announced Story’s arrest Wednesday.  He has been charged with a violation of the National Firearms Act – a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Manassas Patch, 30 May 2012

See also Inside NoVa, 31 May 2012

I’m not a fan of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, as they have been deeply involved in abusing constitutional rights, through profiling, secret surveillance and entrapment activities. Story’s arrest however does, once again, bring to surface the fact that the so-called “anti-Jihad/counter-jihad” movement is filled with neo-Nazis, fascists, and racists of one stripe or another.

It is also another opportunity to point out Spencer’s hypocrisy. He asked Ibrahim Hooper to apologize for “defaming” Douglas Story, but cannot and will not bring himself to apologize for supporting a “White supremacist” and defaming Ibrahim Hooper.

Robert Spencer will you finally apologize for defending a neo-Nazi “White Supremacist” even after the above image of his car, replete with neo-Nazi symbolism, the Confederate flag, and anti-Islam propaganda were evident? Do you, Spencer, agree with the neo-Nazi Story that “all we need to know about Islam we learned on 9/11?”

Something tells me Spencer’s apologies and answer will not be forthcoming.

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Wilfredo Amr Ruiz: ‘We Are Not at War With Islam’

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2012 by loonwatch

Wildredo Amr Ruiz

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz

Is the oft-repeated phrase by both presidents George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama, “We are not at war with Islam” just hollow political-speak?

Wilfredo A Ruiz discusses:

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz: ‘We Are Not at War With Islam’

Former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama have persistently affirmed: “We are not at war with Islam,” trying to assure 1.7 billion Muslims that the military actions of the so-called “war against terrorism” do not constitute belligerence against Islam or Muslims. This incessant message of denial is hard to swallow by many sectors of our society, and the world at large, since the United States has engaged in multiple wars of occupation in Muslim countries including Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, it conducts routine military incursions and bombardment campaigns on Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and other Muslim countries.
Furthermore, thousands of Muslim citizens around the world are subjected to arrest without formal accusations or due process of law. Incarcerations and even torture takes place at a network of international secret prisons and “black hole” locations operated or accessed by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.Unfortunately, in the American political arena there is also the perception that the government security and intelligence agencies and military apparatus are at war with Islam and Muslims.
They substantiate this notion with continuous discriminatory and prejudiced policies affecting American Muslims and their institutions. Let us take, for example, the harsh experience New York Muslims are undergoing with the NYPD. They are subject to widespread and ongoing espionage policies from their own police department, which include the opening of dossiers based on ethnic and religious profiling.
This openly unconstitutional practice is not based on suspiciousness of them committing crimes or being engaged in an ongoing criminal enterprise. Rather, the information recorded documents the restaurants they frequent, the books they check out, and even the times and places where they conduct their daily prayers.Evidently, the constant Islamophobic discourses have resonated to the military branches, resulting in the offering of multiple training courses with discriminatory, bigoted and offensive materials.
Some of these academic materials recently discovered are taught at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., in which mainstream Muslim persons and organizations are characterized as radical, violent extremists. The course even calls for treating the Muslim civilian population the way the Japanese were dealt with at Hiroshima, with nuclear attacks on the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and wiping out civilians.
It promotes a total war on Islam affirming that there is no such thing as moderate Islam. The military training course participants are encouraged to think of themselves as a “resistance movement to Islam.” Other various training courses with xenophobic and bigoted content offered to the FBI have also been exposed. These are not isolated and unique classes, but multiple trainings held at numerous venues to hundreds of military officers and intelligence agents that are responsible for the safety and security of our nation.
Notwithstanding the military and FBI’s promises to review their courses and purge the training curriculums of Islamophobic materials, we need ask ourselves: How many other courses (most of them classified as “Secret”) have been offered and, perhaps, are still being offered in these highly secured and secret agencies without public exposure?
The sad reality is that our nation has institutionalized vigilance based on stereotypical ethnic and religious profiling. Let us just examine for a moment the recent incident at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, where an 18-month-old toddler, a daughter of American parents of Middle Eastern descent, was ordered off a plane by Jet Blue Airline’s officials who claimed she was on the TSA’s “no fly” list: a list obviously fed with the names of people selected based on ethnic and religious profiling. The toddler case is not the only one of its kind, as another 500 American citizens are also in these puzzling and sinister lists in the absence of due process. The lists are not only ineffective, but openly unconstitutional because individuals are included without notification or being told why they are on the list and without the chance to rebut the basis of their inclusion.

What will our political leaders do to try to erase the idea that the Nation is engaged in a war against Islam and Muslims? The major challenge they confront in this task is that the more time elapses, the more discrimination, oppression, persecution and injustices cements against American Muslims and their institutions.

President Obama still has the option and opportunity to rise to the occasion and confront this most delicate situation at the level it merits. He might, perhaps, start cleaning and straightening the Executive Branch from head to toe. The president should take steps that truly guarantee the elimination of racial and religious profiling exercised by law enforcement agencies and should swiftly end all the futile wars on Muslim countries once and for all. Perhaps, he should follow the Executive Order he signed back on Jan. 22, 2009, mandating the “Closure of Detention Facilities at Guantanamo” and the “Immediate Review of All Guantanamo Detentions.” Only such decisive actions will sustain the hollowed presidential words: “We are not at war with Islam.”

 Follow Wilfredo Amr Ruiz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnalistaInter

US Government Targets Yonas Fikre in Poorly Disguised Attempt at Retaliation

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2012 by loonwatch

Yonas Fikre accused the FBI of involvement in his torture in the UAE after he refused to become an informant for the FBI.

US Charges Yonas Fikre, American Who Claimed Torture, With Conspiracy

by Nick Baumann (Mother Jones)

Last month, Mother Jones broke the story of Yonas Fikre. An American Muslim now living in Sweden, Fikre claims he was tortured in the United Arab Emirates at the US government’s request after refusing to become an informant for the FBI. On Tuesday, less than three weeks after Fikre’s allegations were made public, the Justice Department charged Fikre, his brother Dawit Woldehawariat, and a third man, Abrehaile Haile, with conspiring to hide $75,000 worth of money transfers to the UAE and Sudan from the government, all in violation of federal reporting requirements for large international financial transactions. Woldehawariat, Fikre’s brother, was also charged with failing to file a tax return in 2009 and 2010.

There are no allegations of terrorism associated with the charges.

Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations who has been working with Fikre, told Mother Jones on Wednesday that the federal charges were retaliation for Fikre’s refusal to cooperate with the FBI. “It is disappointing but not surprising that the FBI is retaliating against Yonas by filing specious charges against him after they promised to make his life difficult after he refused to become their informant,” Abbas wrote in an email. “While FBI agents lied to Yonas about many things, in this case, it seems that they have kept their word.”

Thomas Nelson, Fikre’s Portland, Oregon-based lawyer, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Tuesday that he was unaware of the charges against his client. But Abbas said he’s been in touch with Nelson since then and the two are working together to decide what to do next.

Here’s the charging document:

Mother Jones: American Muslim Alleges FBI Had a Hand in His Torture

Posted in Loon Violence, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2012 by loonwatch

FikreJustin Norman/Flickr

We are no longer shocked at crimes and excesses committed by those in authority, we have become complacent and either accept such things as a daily part of life, an aberration or even something praiseworthy.

Below we have another US Muslim alleging that the FBI had a hand in his torture:

MOTHER JONES EXCLUSIVE: Yonas Fikre believes the US government played a role in his hellish three-month detention in the United Arab Emirates.

By Nick Baumann

UPDATE: Fikre’s lawyers have written a letter to the Justice Department about his allegations and released a video of him talking about his ordeal.

Last June, while Yonas Fikre was visiting the United Arab Emirates, the Muslim American from Portland, Oregon was suddenly arrested and detained by Emirati security forces. For the next three months, Fikre claims, he was repeatedly interrogated and tortured. Fikre says he was beaten on the soles of his feet, kicked and punched, and held in stress positions while interrogators demanded he “cooperate” and barked questions that were eerily similar to those posed to him not long before by FBI agents and other American officials who had requested a meeting with him.

Fikre had been visiting family in Khartoum, Sudan, when, in April 2010, the officials got in touch with him. He agreed to meet with them, but ultimately balked at cooperating with FBI questioning without a lawyer present and he rebuffed a request to become an informant. Pressing him to cooperate, the agents told him he was on the no-fly list and could not return home unless he aided the bureau, Fikre says. The following week he received an email from one of the US officials; it arrived from a State Department address: “Thanks for meeting with us last week in Sudan. While we hope to get your side of the issues we keep hearing about, the choice is yours to make. The time to help yourself is now.”

“When Yonas [first] asked whether the FBI was behind his detention, he was beaten for asking the question,” says his lawyer. “Toward the end, the interrogator indicated that indeed the FBI had been involved.”

Fikre made his way to the UAE the following year, where, he and his lawyer allege, he was detained at the request of the US government. They say his treatment is part of a pattern of “proxy” detentions of US Muslims orchestrated by the the US government. Now, Fikre’s Portland-based lawyer, Thomas Nelson, plans to file suit against the Obama administration for its alleged complicity in Fikre’s torture.

“There was explicit cooperation; we certainly will allege that in the complaint,” says Nelson, a well known terrorism defense attorney. “When Yonas [first] asked whether the FBI was behind his detention, he was beaten for asking the question. Toward the end, the interrogator indicated that indeed the FBI had been involved. Yonas understood this as indicating that the FBI continued to [want] him to work for/with them.” Nelson, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Council on American Islamic Relations are assembling a high-powered legal team to handle Fikre’s case in the United States.

Fikre’s story echoes those of Naji HamdanAmir MeshalSharif MobleyGulet Mohamed, and Yusuf and Yahya Wehelie. All are American Muslim men who, while traveling abroad, claim they were detained, interrogated, and (in some cases) abused by local security forces; the men claim they were arrested at the behest of federal law enforcement authorities, alleging the US government used this process to circumvent their legal rights as American citizens.

As Mother Jones reported in its September/October 2011 issue, the FBI has acknowledged that it tips off local security forces on the names of Americans traveling overseas that the bureau suspects of involvement in terrorism, and that these individuals are sometimes detained and questioned. The FBI also admits that its agents sometimes “interview or witness an interview” of Americans detained by foreign governments in terrorism cases. And as several FBI officials told me on condition of anonymity, the bureau has for years used its elite cadre of international agents (known as legal attachés, or legats) to coordinate the overseas detention and interrogation by foreign security services of American terrorism suspects. Sometimes, that entails cooperating with local security forces that are accustomed to abusing prisoners. (FBI officials have told Mother Jones that foreign security forces are asked to refrain from abusing American detainees.)

It’s difficult to confirm US involvement in the detentions of Fikre or other alleged proxy detainees—indeed, plausible deniability is part of the appeal of the program. But what’s clear is that Fikre was on the FBI’s radar well before his detention in the UAE. (The FBI declined to comment on his case, as did the State Department.) Fikre, whose only previous brush with the legal system came when he sued a restaurant for having ham in its clam chowder, may have drawn the FBI’s interest because of his association with Portland’s Masjed-as-Saber mosque, where he was a youth basketball coach.

The mosque has been a focus of FBI scrutiny ever since the October 2002 case of the “Portland Seven,” in which seven Muslims from the Portland area were charged with trying to go to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban in the wake of 9/11. (Six are now in jail; the seventh was killed in Pakistan.) Masjed-as-Saber was in the news again in 2010 when Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a 19-year-old Somali American who sometimes worshipped there, was charged with trying to detonate a fake car bomb provided by an undercover FBI agent.

More recently, three other men who attended Fikre’s mosque—Mustafa ElogbiMichael Migliore, and Jamal Tarhuni—have found themselves on the no-fly list after traveling abroad. (The government’s use of the no-fly list to prevent American terrorist suspects from returning home after traveling overseas is currently the subject of a major ACLU lawsuit.)

Fikre’s case “really does make a mockery of the FBI’s use of watchlisting as a means of protecting the US,” says Gadeir Abbas, a staff attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. ”It’s not a means of protecting America—it’s a tool the FBI uses to put people in vulnerable positions.”

It “really does make a mockery of the FBI’s use of watchlisting as a means of protecting the US.”

Fikre, who is currently living in Sweden and believes that it would be unsafe for him to return to the United States, has given a series of videotaped interviews detailing his ordeal. His presence in Sweden beyond the three-month window allowed for tourist visas suggests that he has applied for permanent status there, and local media have so far refrained from reporting on the story for fear of affecting his case to stay in the country.

In the interviews, Fikre describes a series of events that are similar to the 2008 case of Naji Hamdan, a Lebanese American auto-parts dealer from Los Angeles who was then living in the UAE. Like Hamdan, Fikre claims he was detained in the UAE, tortured (including with stress positions and beatings on the soles of his feet, so as to not show marks), and asked about his activities in the United States. Like Hamdan, Fikre believed a western interrogator was present in the room at some points during his detention, because when he could peek out under his blindfold (“after being kicked/punched and falling over,” Nelson says) he occasionally saw western slacks and shoes. “In those occasions there was a fair amount of whispering,” Nelson added.

The similarities between the two cases were so striking that Michael Kaufman and Laboni Hoq, lawyers who are representing Hamdan in his separate case against the government, initially thought that Fikre had simply parroted Hamdan’s story. But once they heard more, they decided “the backstory of why the government was interested in him was reasonable and something that didn’t sound fabricated,” Kaufman said. “It seemed like a long way to go for a lie,” Hoq added.

A key difference between Hamdan’s and Fikre’s stories is that Hamdan eventually confessed—under torture, he now emphasizes—to being a member of several terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda. He ultimately spent 11 months in UAE custody before being deported to Lebanon, where he now runs a children’s clothing store. Despite an extensive FBI investigation, he was never charged in the United States.

Fikre, his lawyer says, “never confessed to anything”—”thankfully.”

“The FBI does this stuff because they can get away with it,” Nelson says. “But the bureau has totally destroyed any relationship it had with the Muslim community in Portland.”

Nick Baumann covers national politics and civil liberties issues for Mother Jones’ DC Bureau. For more of his stories, click here.

UPDATE, Wednesday, 1:00 p.m. EST: Fikre’s lawyers have released a video of him talking about his ordeal (they’ve also written a letter to the Justice Department). You can watch the video here:

Documents Reveal FBI Spied On Peaceful Muslims

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2012 by loonwatch

Documents Reveal FBI Spied On Peaceful Muslims

By Josh Israel Newly released FBI documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union, suggest that the bureau illegally spied on the religious practices of Muslim Americans, under the guise of community outreach. An FBI spokesman defended the information gathering as “within the scope of an authorized law enforcement activity, whether investigation or liaison, including activities designed to strengthen relationships in various communities.” The ACLU explains:

The FBI’s targeting of American Muslim religious organizations for secret intelligence gathering raises grave constitutional concerns because it is an affront to religious liberty and equal protection of the law. The bureau’s use of outreach meetings to gather intelligence also undermines the trust and mutual understanding necessary to effective law enforcement. Additionally, the FBI’s retention of information gathered through “mosque outreach” in its intelligence files violates federal Privacy Act prohibitions against the maintenance of records about individuals’ First Amendment-protected activity.

But this would hardly be the first time the FBI spied on peaceful Americans. Here are just a few recent examples:

  • Iraq War Opponents — A 2002 FBI memo showed the bureau investigated gatherings of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice, as the pacifist group leafleted against the Iraq War.
  • Environmentalists — The FBI improperly investigated two planned Greenpeace corporate protests, a three-year inquiry extending long after the protests were over.
  • Animal Rights Supporters — The bureau also improperly investigated People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.This intelligence, while not useful for public safety, was at least better than the virtual restaurant reviews gathered by the New York Police Department’s spying operation.A 2010 Inspector General’s report lambasted the FBI for equating nonviolent protests with terrorism and for “false and misleading statements to the public and to Congress.”Of course, these groups are in good company. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself was spied on regularly by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. The COINTELPRO investigations into whether the civil rights leader might be a Communist including tapped phone conversations, bugs at his house, and even a 1964 infamous poison-pen letter warning him he would be exposed as a fraud. But nearly 50 years later, it seems perhaps the FBI should have learned from its mistakes.

Why you shouldn’t tell American border guards you’re in Islamic Studies

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2012 by loonwatch

Why you shouldn’t tell American border guards you’re in Islamic Studies

by ANDREANNE STEWART

On May 1, 2010, Pascal Abidor was riding an Amtrak train from Montreal to New York. His parents live in Brooklyn, and he was on his way to visit them. The school year at McGill had just ended, and he felt relieved and calm as the train rolled south towards America.

At about 11 a.m., the train arrived at the U.S. border and made a routine stop. A team of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers boarded the train and advanced through each car, questioning passengers. Pascal had made this trip countless times before, so when a customs officer approached him, he didn’t give it a second thought.

But Pascal had never met Officer Tulip.

After looking over Pascal’s U.S. passport and customs declaration, Officer Tulip asked two simple questions: Where do you live, and why?

Pascal answered that he lived in Canada. He lived in Canada because that’s where he was pursuing a PhD in Islamic Studies.

Next, she asked him where he had traveled in the previous year, and he answered Jordan and Lebanon. He showed her his French passport (he’s a dual citizen) with the “Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” stamp, and the Lebanese stamp with the little cedar tree on top.

That didn’t help. Officer Tulip immediately told him to grab his things and follow her to the train’s cafe car. Pascal gathered his luggage, but Officer Tulip carried the bag containing his laptop. At the time, he thought she was just being helpful.

In the cafe car, they were joined by five or six more CBP officers. Pascal sat across from Officer Tulip as she took out his laptop, turned it on, and asked him to enter his password, which he did.

As she scrolled through the contents of his computer, Pascal could only see her reaction. Officer Tulip signaled to her colleagues and pointed at something on the screen. She then turned to Pascal and demanded an explanation.

Pascal was now surrounded by half a dozen suspicious American border police, staring at photos – on his laptop – of Hamas and Hezbollah rallies.

Where had he gotten “this stuff,” Officer Tulip asked. Pascal explained that his PhD research is on the Shiites of modern Lebanon. This was not, in her books, a good answer. Finally, the officers told Pascal that he would have to leave the train with them.

“Take me off the train, I’ll walk back to Montreal,” Pascal offered. Given what he would go through in the next few hours, Pascal might well have preferred the walk.

Instead, he was frisked, with particular vigor around his genitals. Then he was handcuffed. Pascal winced.

As they led him off the train, the officers draped a coat over his bound wrists. They claimed it was to spare him the embarrassment of a perp walk. But as Pascal walked past the train’s windows, he tried to show the passengers that he was cuffed. He hadn’t done anything wrong, and he wanted witnesses.

Pascal was then loaded into the back of a van. Oddly, as one of the officers tried to close the van’s side door, it fell clean off. It could have been a moment of levity in a grim situation. But Pascal didn’t dare laugh.

The Detention Cell

When they arrived at the Champlain Port of Entry, Pascal was put in a five-by-ten foot cell with cinder block walls and a steel-reinforced door. He was told to wait. He stayed in the cell for about an hour. Officers came in at random intervals to ask him questions.

“I thought I was going to throw up,” he said. “I thought I was going to be sent to Guantanamo Bay.”

Pascal was then removed from the cell and brought to an interrogation room, complete with florescent lighting and a two-way mirror. He sat across from two CBP officers – Officer Tulip and a man named Officer Sweet – while another officer sat at the end of the table, seemingly in case Pascal got violent.

“They thought I was straight-up dangerous,” Pascal said.

Then the real interrogation began, an hour and a half of intensive questioning. Where was he born? Where were his parents born? What religion was he raised with? Had he ever been to a rally in the Middle East? Had he heard any anti-American statements in the Middle East? Had he ever seen an American flag burned? Had he ever been to a mosque? But the questions always came back to the same point – why Islamic Studies?

“I want to be an academic – this is just what I happen to be an academic in,” Pascal told them.

His answers seemed to fall on deaf ears. The interrogation continued. It was the same questions, over and over. They were looking for him to make a mistake.

They soon fell into a good-cop, bad-cop routine.

“He thought I was cool,” Pascal said of Officer Sweet. Officer Tulip, on the other hand, “thought I was the most evil person. She thought I was a movie villain or something.”

They claimed Pascal’s dual citizenship made him untraceable. They suggested he was attractive “to both sides.” Pascal was baffled. Both sides of what?

Finally, after about three hours in detention, he was released. But there was a catch – the CBP was keeping his laptop and hard drive.

Pascal was enraged. While he had been waiting in the cell, Pascal had given some thought to what he would say to the officers once he was free. Now, with his anger compounded by the loss of his computer, Pascal delivered a blistering speech, directed at his arch-nemesis, Officer Tulip.

“I ripped into her,” he said. “She just stood there, [then] walked away.”

When an FBI agent came up to him and attempted to apologize, Pascal stopped him mid-sentence. “I don’t want to hear your apology,” he told the agent.

Before he left, he was given his camera and his two cell phones. There was a scratch on the back of one of the phones, as if someone had tried to open it.

Taking Legal Action

After being released from detention, Pascal hitched a ride on the next bus with an open seat that came through the checkpoint. He arrived in New York at midnight. That night, he had trouble sleeping, as he would have for the next week or so.

The next morning, he sat down and wrote eleven single-spaced pages detailing exactly what had happened to him. The day after that, he began making phone calls to state senators and advocacy organizations in the hope of finding someone who would help him. Lots of them were interested in his case, including Anthony Weiner, the former New York Congressman.

Finally, Pascal settled on the ACLU. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is the oldest and largest civil liberties organization in the United States. Free speech cases are its bread and butter. And they told Pascal that his right to free speech, protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution, had been violated.

Two days after his first phone call with the ACLU, Pascal was in downtown Manhattan, sitting in a meeting with a team of lawyers. The first thing they did was to write a letter to the CBP demanding that they return Pascal’s laptop. The day after the letter was sent, Pascal got a call from the CBP asking him where they should overnight his belongings.

But at this point, the damage was done. When the laptop arrived in the mail, the seam between the keyboard and the outer case that led to the internal hard drive appeared to have widened. The warranty seal on his external hard drive had been broken open, too. The government had already searched, and, they later conceded, made copies of Pascal’s electronic life.

Pascal and the ACLU were incensed. His laptop contained intimate personal information: chat logs with his girlfriend, university transcripts, his tax returns.

The problem was, everything Homeland Security had done was completely by the book.

 

The Policy

In August 2009, the Department of Homeland Security enacted a policy that allows for the search and seizure of electronic devices at the border without reasonable suspicion. Under the policy, the DHS can detain any electronic device indefinitely, and copy and share the information it contains. Between October 1, 2008 and June 2, 2010, more than 6,500 people had their electronic devices searched at U.S. border stops.

It was under this policy that Pascal’s laptop and hard drive were searched and detained.

Upon the enactment of the policy, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano stated that, “keeping Americans safe in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully screen materials entering the United States. The new directives announced today strike the balance between respecting the civil liberties and privacy of all travelers, while ensuring DHS can take the lawful actions necessary to secure our borders.”

The policy makes a point of specifying that, “at no point during a border search of electronic devices is it necessary to ask the traveler for consent to search.”

This struck the ACLU as deeply unconstitutional. So they and Pascal decided to sue Janet Napolitano, Director of Homeland Security, to challenge the constitutionality of the policy.

In September 2010, they filed their “complaint” against Napolitano, the legal document that kicks off a lawsuit. The ACLU argued that the DHS policy violates the First and Fourth Amendments, which guarantee free speech and protection against unreasonable search and seizure respectively.

The U.S. government tried to get the case thrown out, arguing that while Pascal’s story was true, the government’s actions had not broken any laws.

On the question of the Fourth Amendment, the government effectively said that just about any kind of search is legal at the border, in the name of national sovereignty.

“Searches made at the border, pursuant to the long standing right of the sovereign to protect itself by stopping and examining persons and property crossing into this country, are reasonable simply by virtue of the fact that they occur at the border,” the government wrote in its Motion to Dismiss, the legal maneuver for getting a case thrown out.

With regard to the First Amendment, the Motion to Dismiss stated that, “an otherwise valid search under the Fourth Amendment, does not violate the First Amendment rights of an individual – even a completely innocent individual – simply because the search uncovers expressive material.”

In other words, a border search is a border search is a border search.

And it’s true that all travelers are subject to a routine search at the border, whether or not there’s suspicion of wrongdoing.

But while the U.S. government argues that the search of laptops should be considered a part of these routine searches, the ACLU says these searches are more invasive and therefore must be held to a higher standard.

“It is different to go through someone’s shoes and contact solution, than to go through all the documents on their computer,” said Catherine Crump, one of Pascal’s ACLU lawyers.

Last July, Pascal and his ACLU lawyers went to a courtroom in Brooklyn to argue against throwing out their case. The judge has still not come to a decision.

Meanwhile, the DHS policy remains on the books. Laptops and cell phones continue to be detained and searched without reasonable suspicion at the U.S. border.

Pascal, for his part, hasn’t had a normal border-crossing since that May 1 morning. “Now, every time I cross the border, I get harassed,” he said.

In December 2010, he was crossing the border with his father. The border guards began interrogating him in unusual ways. “They refused to believe my dad was my dad,” he said. “If you saw my dad, you could not believe we were not related.”

The guards then searched the car top to bottom, and made the Abidors wait at the checkpoint for two hours.

“This is about lowering the threshold of what is acceptable to us,” Pascal said of his treatment at the hands of the CBP. “You can’t have rights and then selectively apply them.”

Mother Jones: Wondering If Your “Jihadist” Friend Is With the FBI?

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2012 by loonwatch

Shahed Hussain is still trying to entrap people, there are many more like him out there (H/T: BA):

Wondering If Your “Jihadist” Friend Is With the FBI?

By Hamed Aleaziz (Mother Jones)

Shahed Hussain, a long-time FBI terrorism informant Mother Jones profiled last year, has surfaced again—but this time, Google appears to have foiled his effort to identify a new target. Khalifah al-Akili, a 34-year-old Pittsburgh man, says he was approached by Hussain and another informant in January. Al Akili told the Albany Times-Union that after Hussain “repeatedly made attempts to get close” to him, he googled them. He found Trevor Aaronson’s August 2011 Mother Jonesexpose about the FBI’s massive network of undercover terrorism informants and confronted Hussain on the phone. After al-Akili explicitly asked if he was an informant, Hussain hung up the phone. Now al-Akili awaits trial on a gun charge (but no terrorism charges).

Al-Akili says became suspicious of Hussain because he was friendly, dropping in at al-Akili’s house and, after al-Akili lied that he had a sick family member, dropping off a get-well card.

Hussain’s involvement in two previous FBI counterterrorism cases led to convictions: James Cromitie, a 45-year-old former Walmart stocker from Newburgh, New York, was sentenced to 25 years in the headline-making Bronx synagogue plot. Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain of Albany, New York, an imam and pizza shop owner respectively, were each sentenced to 15 years for, among other charges, conspiracy to provide support to a terrorist organization with which Hussain claimed to have connections.

Hussain became an informant in 2002 after the FBI caught him helping people cheat on DMV tests. For his work in the Cromitie case, Hussain earned almost $100,000. Mother Jones contributor Trevor Aaronsoninvestigated the FBI’s informant-led cases, including those involving Hussain, for more than a year; he found that in a number of cases, “the government provides the plot, the means, and the opportunity.”

Even with the publicity surrounding the Cromitie and Aref cases, Hussain seems to have utilized a tried and true formula in his conversations with al-Akili—claiming he was in the import business, knew people in a terrorist group, and wanted to talk jihad. “He said to me: ‘My people are involved in the jihad, I lived on the border of Afghanistan,’ trying basically to entice me. I said, ‘May Allah give peace to those people.’ He just continued to want to try to take the conversation in that direction…The people he entrapped were either extremely naive or stupid.”

In previous cases, Hussain has admitted that he would often initiate conversations about jihad when seeking out new targets. At Cromitie’s trial, Hussain described his approach: “I was finding people who would be harmful, and radicals, and identify them for the FBI.”  Aaronson’s article includes this conversation from 2008, when Hussain told Cromitie he was a part of a Pakistani terror group:

“Do you think you are a better recruiter or a better action man?” Hussain asked.

“I’m both,” Cromitie said.

“My people would be very happy to know that, brother. Honestly.”

“Who’s your people?” Cromitie asked.

“[Pakistani terror group] Jaish-e-Mohammad.”

Though there are no terror charges in the al-Akili case, the FBI says it discovered ”jihadist literature and books on U.S. military tactics,” at al-Akili’s house. The FBI claims that al-Akili was recorded talking about the fact “that he was developing somebody to possibly strap a bomb on himself” and according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the FBI maintains that al-Akili “expressed sympathy for the Afghan resistance movement in a 2005 conversation with a man he knew in prison.”

Al-Akili himself says this type of thing has happened before. “This is not the first situation that I’ve had involving the FBI attempting to entrap me…I stand out here in Pittsburgh because I do follow a more traditional role of Islam. They feel I pose a threat. I’ve never, ever said that I would do anything against America nor do I hold these beliefs,” he told theTimes Union.