Archive for FBI

The ex-FBI Informant with a Change of Heart: ‘There is no real hunt. It’s fixed’

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2012 by loonwatch

Craig Monteilh

Craig Monteilh

The ex-FBI informant with a change of heart: ‘There is no real hunt. It’s fixed’

 in Irvine, California

Craig Monteilh describes how he pretended to be a radical Muslim in order to root out potential threats, shining a light on some of the bureau’s more ethically murky practices

Craig Monteilh says he did not balk when his FBI handlers gave him the OK to have sex with the Muslim women his undercover operation was targeting. Nor, at the time, did he shy away from recording their pillow talk.

“They said, if it would enhance the intelligence, go ahead and have sex. So I did,” Monteilh told the Guardian as he described his year as a confidential FBI informant sent on a secret mission to infiltrate southern Californian mosques.

It is an astonishing admission that goes that goes to the heart of the intelligence surveillance of Muslim communities in America in the years after 9/11. While police and FBI leaders have insisted they are acting to defend America from a terrorist attack, civil liberties groups have insisted they have repeatedly gone too far and treated an entire religious group as suspicious.

Monteilh was involved in one of the most controversial tactics: the use of “confidential informants” in so-called entrapment cases. This is when suspects carry out or plot fake terrorist “attacks” at the request or under the close supervision of an FBI undercover operation using secret informants. Often those informants have serious criminal records or are supplied with a financial motivation to net suspects.

In the case of the Newburgh Four – where four men were convicted for a fake terror attack on Jewish targets in the Bronx – a confidential informant offered $250,000, a free holiday and a car to one suspect for help with the attack.

In the case of the Fort Dix Five, which involved a fake plan to attack a New Jersey military base, one informant’s criminal past included attempted murder, while another admitted in court at least two of the suspects later jailed for life had not known of any plot.

Such actions have led Muslim civil rights groups to wonder if their communities are being unfairly targeted in a spying game that is rigged against them. Monteilh says that is exactly what happens. “The way the FBI conducts their operations, It is all about entrapment … I know the game, I know the dynamics of it. It’s such a joke, a real joke. There is no real hunt. It’s fixed,” he said.

But Monteilh has regrets now about his involvement in a scheme called Operation Flex. Sitting in the kitchen of his modest home in Irvine, near Los Angeles, Monteilh said the FBI should publicly apologise for his fruitless quest to root out Islamic radicals in Orange County, though he does not hold out much hope that will happen. “They don’t have the humility to admit a mistake,” he said.

Monteilh’s story sounds like something out of a pulp thriller. Under the supervision of two FBI agents the muscle-bound fitness instructor created a fictitious French-Syrian altar ego, called Farouk Aziz. In this disguise in 2006 Monteilh started hanging around mosques in Orange County – the long stretch of suburbia south of LA – and pretended to convert to Islam.

He was tasked with befriending Muslims and blanket recording their conversations. All this information was then fed back to the FBI who told Monteilh to act like a radical himself to lure out Islamist sympathizers.

Yet, far from succeeding, Monteilh eventually so unnerved Orange County’s Muslim community that that they got a restraining order against him. In an ironic twist, they also reported Monteilh to the FBI: unaware he was in fact working undercover for the agency.

Monteilh does not look like a spy. He is massively well built, but soft-spoken and friendly. He is 49 but looks younger. He lives in a small rented home in Irvine that blends into the suburban sprawl of southernCalifornia. Yet Monteilh knows the spying game intimately well.

By his own account Monteilh got into undercover work after meeting a group of off-duty cops working out in a gym. Monteilh told them he had spent time in prison in Chino, serving time for passing fraudulent checks.

It is a criminal past he explains by saying he was traumatised by a nasty divorce. “It was a bad time in my life,” he said. He and the cops got to talking about the criminals Monteilh had met while in Chino. The information was so useful that Monteilh says he began to work on undercover drug and organised crime cases.

Eventually he asked to work on counter-terrorism and was passed on to two FBI handlers, called Kevin Armstrong and Paul Allen. These two agents had a mission and an alias ready-made for him.

Posing as Farouk Aziz he would infiltrate local mosques and Islamic groups around Orange County. “Paul Allen said: ‘Craig, you are going to be our computer worm. Our guy that gives us the real pulse of the Muslim community in America’,” Monteilh said.

The operation began simply enough. Monteilh started hanging out at mosques, posing as Aziz, and explaining he wanted to learn more about religion. In July, 2006, at the Islamic Center of Irvine, he converted to Islam.

Monteilh also began attending other mosques, including the Orange County Islamic Foundation. Monteilh began circulating endlessly from mosque to mosque, spending long days in prayer or reading books or just hanging out in order to get as many people as possible to talk to him.

“Slowly I began to wear the robes, the hat, the scarf and they saw me slowly transform and growing a beard. At that point, about three or four months later, [my FBI handlers] said: ‘OK, now start to ask questions’.”

Those questions were aimed at rooting out radicals. Monteilh would talk of his curiosity over the concepts of jihad and what Muslims should do about injustices in the world, especially where it pertained to American foreign policy.

He talked of access to weapons, a possible desire to be a martyr and inquired after like-minded souls. It was all aimed at trapping people in condemning statements. “The skill is that I am going to get you to say something. I am cornering you to say “jihad”,” he said.

Of course, the chats were recorded.

In scenes out of a James Bond movie, Monteilh said he sometimes wore a secret video recorder sewn into his shirt. At other times he activated an audio recorder on his key rings.

Monteilh left his keys in offices and rooms in the mosques that he attended in the hope of recording conversations that took place when he was not here. He did it so often that he earned a reputation with other worshippers for being careless with his keys. The recordings were passed back to his FBI handlers at least once a week.

He also met with them every two months at a hotel room in nearby Anaheim for a more intense debriefing. Monteilh says he was grilled on specific individuals and asked to view charts showing networks of relationships among Orange County’s Muslim population.

He said the FBI had two basic aims. Firstly, they aimed to uncover potential militants. Secondly, they could also use any information Monteilh discovered – like an affair or someone being gay – to turn targeted people into becoming FBI informants themselves.

None of it seemed to unnerve his FBI bosses, not even when he carried out a suggestion to begin seducing Muslim women and recording them.

At one hotel meeting, agent Kevin Armstrong explained the FBI attitude towards the immense breadth of Operation Flex – and any concerns over civil rights – by saying simply: “Kevin is God.”

Monteilh’s own attitude evolved into something very similar. “I was untouchable. I am a felon, I am on probation and the police cannot arrest me. How empowering is that? It is very empowering. You began to have a certain arrogance about it. It is almost taunting. They told me: ‘You are an untouchable’,” he said.

But it was not always easy. “I started at 4am. I ended at 9.30pm. Really, it was a lot of work … Farouk took over. Craig did not exist,” he said. But it was also well paid: at the peak of Operation Flex, Monteilh was earning more than $11,000 a month.

But he was wrong about being untouchable.

Far from uncovering radical terror networks, Monteilh ended up traumatising the community he was sent into. Instead of embracing calls for jihad or his questions about suicide bombers or his claims to have access to weapons, Monteilh was instead reported to the FBI as a potentially dangerous extremist.

A restraining order was also taken out against him in June 2007, asking him to stay away from the Islamic Center of Irvine. Operation Flex was a bust and Monteilh had to kill off his life as Farouk Aziz.

But the story did not end there. In circumstances that remain murky Monteilh then sued the FBI over his treatment, claiming that they abandoned him once the operation was over.

He also ended up in jail after Irvine police prosecuted him for defrauding two women, including a former girlfriend, as part of an illegal trade in human growth hormone at fitness clubs. (Monteilh claims those actions were carried out as part of another secret string operation for which he was forced to carry the can.)

What is not in doubt is that Monteilh’s identity later became public. In 2009 the FBI brought a case against Ahmad Niazi, an Afghan immigrant in Orange County.

The evidence included secret recordings and even calling Osama bin Laden “an angel”. That was Monteilh’s work and he outed himself to the press to the shock of the very Muslims he had been spying on who now realised that Farouk Aziz – the radical they had reported to the FBI two years earlier – had in fact been an undercover FBI operative.

Now Monteilh says he set Niazi up and the FBI was trying to blackmail the Afghani into being an informant. “I built the whole relationship with Niazi. Through my coercion we talked about jihad a lot,” he said. The FBI’s charges against Niazi were indeed later dropped.

Now Monteilh has joined an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the FBI. Amazingly, after first befriending Muslim leaders in Orange County as Farouk Aziz, then betraying them as Craig Monteilh, he has now joined forces with them again to campaign for their civil liberties.

That has now put Monteilh’s testimony about his year undercover is at the heart of a fresh legal effort to prove that the FBI operation in Orange County unfairly targeted a vulnerable Muslim community, trampling on civil rights in the name of national security.

The FBI did not respond to a request from the Guardian for comment.

It is not the first time Monteilh has shifted his stance. In the ACLU case Monteilh is now posing as the sorrowful informant who saw the error of his ways.

But in previous court papers filed against the Irvine Police and the FBI, Monteilh’s lawyers portrayed him as the loyal intelligence asset who did sterling work tackling the forces of Islamic radicalism and was let down by his superiors.

In those papers Monteilh complained that FBI agents did not act speedily enough on a tip he gave them about a possible sighting of bomb-making materials. Now Monteilh says that tip was not credible.

Either way it does add up to a story that shifts with the telling. But that fact alone goes to the heart of the FBI’s use of such confidential informants in investigating Muslim communities.

FBI operatives with profiles similar to Monteilh’s – of a lengthy criminal record, desire for cash and a flexibility with the truth – have led to high profile cases of alleged entrapment that have shocked civil rights groups across America.

In most cases the informants have won their prosecutions and simply disappeared. Monteilh is the only one speaking out. But whatever the reality of his year undercover, Monteilh is almost certainly right about one impact of Operation Flex and the exposure of his undercover activities: “Because of this the Muslim community will never trust the FBI again.”

Fearmonger Does Little to Improve Conversation on Terrorism

Posted in Loon People, Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2012 by loonwatch

Fearmonger does little to improve conversation on terrorism

by John L. Smith

For Steve Emerson, the danger is very clear and very present: A surprising number of American officials and institutions are in the tank to Islamic extremists and their handmaidens.

Emerson accuses the Obama administration of being infiltrated by radical followers of Islam inside our own country and throughout the world.

That’s right. Infiltrated.

Emerson, the executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, spent an hour last week with the Review-Journal editorial board and was accompanied by Elliot Karp, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas. In the short time Emerson spent at the newspaper, he managed to indict a number of law enforcement institutions and officers as patsies for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic extremists in our midst.

For one, there’s the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Emerson said the FBI is so focused not offending Islamist and Arabic groups with allegiances to Hamas and Hezbollah that it’s getting in the way of anti-terrorism investigations.

“The agents on the ground understand exactly what’s going on,” Emerson says cryptically of the bureau’s political atmosphere. When asked to elaborate, he replies, “I have to protect my sources.”

Forgive me, but I thought the FBI was doing a pretty good job on the terrorism front. Turns out they’re falling down on the job.

It’s OK, though. Emerson has confidence in his own ability to spot the terrorists among us. He brags that his sources are “sometimes even better than the bureau.”

He adds that his field intelligence was superior to the FBI’s in part because “informants are more likely to work for us.”

That’s not all. He also has the sneaking suspicion that a talk he was scheduled to give to a group of CIA operatives was derailed by the Obama administration. Who knew President Barack Obama had enough hours in the day to dispatch CIA Director David Petraeus to teach Emerson a lesson?

Then there’s Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. In 2010, Baca was honored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has been linked to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. CAIR also actively challenges Muslim stereotypes and presents the Islamic side of issues.

“He believes CAIR is a wonderful organization,” Emerson says sarcastically. ” … I’m not calling him evil, or fundamentally stupid, but he is in bed with the bad guys.”

Obviously, Emerson isn’t shy about pointing fingers. Nor is he simply a sign-waving conspiracy theorist. His allies on the right consider him a Cassandra who warns us about the dangers of Islamic extremism at home and abroad, and especially as it affects Israel. He pens op-ed pieces in major newspapers, is often quoted on television and radio talk shows, is cheered on the speaking circuit, and has a loyal following on his website. He is a leading firebrand from the school of thought that goes something like, “Not all Muslims are plotting terrorist acts, just most of them.”

He claims he is the victim of “a fatwa by NPR” largely because National Public Radio officials don’t invite him on their programs these days. But you can still catch plenty of Emerson’s opinions in a variety of media and networks.

Lest you think he’s just a right-wing extremist out to frighten people, Emerson repeats often that his work is dangerous and he has received many threats. He says things like “I’ve got to look over my shoulder every day,” and “If I had a wife and kids, I couldn’t do this.”

Certainly not. He made it sound a little dangerous just sitting in the room with him.

That’s Emerson’s problem whether you believe he’s full of facts or fudge. His hyperbolic rhetoric plays well on the fundraising circuit, but it does nothing to forward the understanding of complex issues.

The Middle East is a political tinderbox. There’s heated talk of possible U.S. and Israeli military intervention in Iran to halt its development of nuclear technology.

At the risk of becoming part of a vast conspiracy to silence Steve Emerson, that complex conversation isn’t improved by his shouts of conspiracy at the highest levels of our government.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.

Peter King Defends NYPD Monitoring, Plans More Hearings on Islam

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2012 by loonwatch

This should come to no surprise that Peter King will defend the NYPD monitoring. He must be really proud.

Peter King Defends NYPD Monitoring, Plans More Hearings on Islam

by George Zornick

Appearing on WCBS in New York this morning, Representative Peter King offered a strong defense of NYPD’s spying on mosques and Muslim businesses and student groups in several states. Criticism of the recently revealed program has intensified in recent days, but King said he was proud of the police department.

“[Police Commissioner] Ray Kelly and the NYPD should get a medal for what they are doing,” he said. “This is good police work. If you are going after radical Muslims you don’t go to Ben’s Kosher Deli.”

This is perhaps not surprising coming from the man who held highly controversial Capitol Hill hearings into Muslim Americans last year, which many people saw as essentially profiling by public relations; his colleague, Representative Keith Ellison invoked the specter of Joe McCarthy in criticizing King’s efforts and said they served to “vilify” Muslims.

But, alas, King announced last week that he would hold more hearings into domestic radicalization among Muslim Americans in the coming year. “The series of radicalization hearings I convened last March has been very productive,” King said in a statement. “I will definitely continue the hearings in 2012.”

This is a good time to flag a recent study by Charles Kurzman, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina and member of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. His comprehensive examination of crime statistics found that terrorism-related incidents by Muslim Americans has declined markedly, and that Muslim-Americans represent “a minuscule threat to public safety.” He wrote:

The limited scale of Muslim-American terrorism in 2011 runs counter to the fears that many Americans shared in the days and months after 9/11, that domestic Muslim American terrorism would escalate. The spike in terrorism cases in 2009 renewed these concerns, as have repeated warnings from U.S. government officials about a possible surge in homegrown Islamic terrorism. The predicted surge has not materialized.

Repeated alerts by government officials maybe issued as a precaution, even when the underlying threat is uncertain. Officials may be concerned about how they would look if an attack did take place and subsequent investigations showed that officials had failed to warn the public. But a byproduct of these alerts is a sense of heightened tension that is out of proportion to the actual number of terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11.

If King calls Kurzman to testify at his hearings I’ll eat my hat, but it’s possible Democrats on the committee could arrange for his appearance. He would provide a substantive counterweight to King’s typically anecdote-driven hysteria. Last week the FBI foiled a plot in which a Moroccan man wanted to bomb the US Capitol—you can bet King will give that episode a prominent role at his hearings.

Someone Called the FBI on NYPD Officers Pretending to Be Muslim Students

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2012 by loonwatch

Someone Called the FBI on NYPD Officers Pretending to Be Muslim Students

When the New York Police Department was doing some spying on Muslim students outside the city (that’s a thing it does, we learned from the Associated Press on Monday), an apartment officers used to spy on Rutgers students got a visit from the FBI on a report that it was a terrorist cell itself. This is the kind of reporting that won the AP a Polk award Monday for its series on the NYPD spying on Muslims. Not only did the department go well outside its jurisdiction to “get a better handle on what was occurring at” Muslim Student Associations, as spokesman Paul Browne told the AP, it did so in a pretty Keystone Kops manner at times:

Police also were interested in the Muslim student group at Rutgers, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 2009, undercover NYPD officers had a safe house in an apartment not far from campus. The operation was blown when the building superintendent stumbled upon the safe house and, thinking it was some sort of a terrorist cell, called the police emerency dispatcher.

The FBI responded and determined that monitoring Rutgers students was one of the operation’s objectives, current and former federal officials said.

Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments or send an email to the author atamartin@theatlantic.com. You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.

FBI Once Again Foils Its Own Islamic Terrorist Plot

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2012 by loonwatch
Amine El Khalifi

The New York Times recently published an article about how exaggerated the threat of Islamic terrorism is.  I pointed out in my own article that in fact the NYT article understated how truly overstated that threat is: in the last half decade, Muslim terrorists have killed a whopping zero civilians in the United States and Europe.

As the war drums beat against yet another Muslim country, the grave and looming threat of Islamic terrorism must be waved before the American public.  And so, Joe Sixpack must never be allowed to realize that he has a higher chance of being struck and killed by lightning–or being killed by a peanut–than being killed by those scary looking Moozlums.  Instead, the threat must be continually drummed up in order to justify America’s multiple wars in the Muslim world.

Enter the FBI.  This organization, tasked with stopping Islamic terrorism in the United States, will serve the purpose of reminding American citizens that they must be afraid–very, very afraid–of the dark threat of Muslim terrorists.

Spencer Ackerman and others have been diligently exposing and documenting the anti-Muslim bias of the FBI.  Not only does the FBI train using anti-Muslim materials, it has been spying on American Muslim communities and even training local police in the art of doing so.

Worse yet, the FBI has been engineering its own Islamic terror plots: the set-up has been repeated numerous times.  First, they find an impressionable young Muslim male angry at U.S. foreign policy, and then, using undercover FBI agents posing as Al-Qaeda, goad him into committing acts of terrorism, only to foil the ginned-up plot at the very last minute.  They then arrest the young Muslim would-be terrorist and announce to the nation that the FBI has successfully thwarted yet another Islamic terror plot.  What is largely ignored by the media is that the plot, from start to finish, was orchestrated by the FBI.

Glenn Greenwald spoke of this long ago in an article, The FBI successfully thwarts its own Terrorist plot:

The FBI is obviously quite pleased with itself over its arrest of a 19-year-old Somali-American, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who — with months of encouragement, support and money from the FBI’s own undercover agents — allegedly attempted to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas event in Portland, Oregon.  Media accounts are almost uniformly trumpeting this event exactly as the FBI describes it.  Loyalists of both parties are doing the same, with Democratic Party commentators proclaiming that this proves how great and effective Democrats are at stopping The Evil Terrorists, while right-wing polemicists point to this arrest as yet more proof that those menacing Muslims sure are violent and dangerous.

[T]he FBI — as they’ve done many times in the past — found some very young, impressionable, disaffected, hapless, aimless, inept loner; created a plot it then persuaded/manipulated/entrapped him to join, essentially turning him into a Terrorist; and then patted itself on the back once it arrested him for having thwarted a “Terrorist plot” which, from start to finish, was entirely the FBI’s own concoction.  Having stopped a plot which it itself manufactured, the FBI then publicly touts — and an uncritical media amplifies — its “success” to the world, thus proving both that domestic Terrorism from Muslims is a serious threat and the Government’s vast surveillance powers — current and future new ones — are necessary.

Such terrorist plots also “prove” the need to bomb, invade, and occupy the Moozlums Over There–we are told that it’s the only way to Keep Us Safe  from Islamic terrorism.

The familiar pattern repeats itself today, as The Washington Post reports:

Federal authorities on Friday arrested a 29-year-old Moroccan man in an alleged plot to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol, the latest in a series of terrorism-related arrests resulting from undercover sting operations.

For more than a year, Amine El Khalifi, of Alexandria, considered attacking targets including a synagogue, an Alexandria building with military offices and a Washington restaurant frequented by military officials, authorities said. When arrested a few blocks from the Capitol around lunchtime on Friday, he was carrying what he believed to be a loaded automatic weapon and a suicide vest ready for detonation.

The gun and vest were provided not by al-Qaeda, as Khalifi had been told, but by undercover FBI agents who rendered them inoperable, authorities said.

ABC 7 notes in passing:

The public nor any members of Congress were ever in danger, police say. Capitol Police say they worked closely with the FBI throughout the entire operation, during which the suspect was closely monitored.

Even though “[t]he public nor any members of Congress were ever in danger”, this same terrorist plot will be used as another proof that Islamic terrorism is a grave danger to Americans.  Indeed, Assistant Attorney General Monaco concluded: “Today’s case underscores the continuing threat we face from homegrown violent extremists.”

Greenwald had written of the 19-year old Somali terrorist arrested in 2010:

Finally, there is, as usual, no discussion whatsoever in media accounts of motive.  There are several statements attributed to Mohamud by the Affidavit that should be repellent to any decent person, including complete apathy — even delight — at the prospect that this bomb would kill innocent people, including children.  What would drive a 19-year-old American citizen — living in the U.S. since the age of 3 — to that level of sociopathic indifference?   He explained it himself in several passages quoted by the FBI, and — if it weren’t for the virtual media blackout of this issue — this line of reasoning would be extremely familiar to Americans by now (para. 45):

Undercover FBI Agent:  You know there’s gonna be a lot of children there?

Mohamud:  Yeah, I know, that’s what I’m looking for.

Undercover FBI Agent:  For kids?

Mohamud:  No, just for, in general a huge mass that will, like for them you know to be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays.  And then for later to be saying, this was them for you to refrain from killing our children, women . . . . so when they hear all these families were killed in such a city, they’ll say you know what your actions, you know they will stop, you know. And it’s not fair that they should do that to people and not feeling it.

And here’s what he allegedly said in a video he made shortly before he thought he would be detonating the bomb (para. 80):

We hear the same exact thing over and over and over from accused Terrorists — that they are attempting to carry out plots in retaliation for past and ongoing American violence against Muslim civilians and to deter such future acts.  Here we find one of the great mysteries in American political culture:  that the U.S. Government dispatches its military all over the world — invading, occupying, and bombing multiple Muslim countries — torturing them, imprisoning them without charges, shooting them up at checkpoints, sending remote-controlled drones to explode their homes, imposing sanctions that starve hundreds of thousands of children to death  — and Americans are then baffled when some Muslims — an amazingly small percentage — harbor anger and vengeance toward them and want to return the violence.   And here we also find the greatest myth in American political discourse:  that engaging in all of that military aggression somehow constitutes Staying Safe and combating Terrorism — rather than doing more than any single other cause to provoke, sustain and fuel Terrorism.

Once again, our Muslim would-be terrorist’s motivations revolve around his anger over U.S. military actions in the Muslim world.  The ABC report notes–once again something that is only mentioned in passing (with very little no critical analysis):

In January 2011, he first met with an undercover agent and stated the “war on terror” was a “war on Muslims,” court records show.

Why on earth would Amine El Khalifi or another Muslim from that part of the world think that the U.S. is waging a “war on Muslims”?  It is so utterly baffling to me.  I mean, why would any Muslim think that?  Is it just because the U.S. is bombing, invading, and occupying multiple Muslim countries?  It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that the U.S. and its stalwart ally Israel have bombed Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Iran, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia, right?

Also of interest is the fact that Amine El Khalifi, at least initially, didn’t want to kill American civilians.  The ABC report says:

El Khalifi told undercover agents that he originally wanted to target a building in Alexandria that contained U.S. Military personal but later changed that plan because he found out the building had non-military civilians.

He then discussed killing U.S. generals and would research where they lived, according to court documents, that added he introduced the idea of targeting a restaurant in D.C. that military officials would frequent.

Were the undercover FBI agents responsible for convincing him to attack civilians instead?  In the end, El Khalifi’s target was the U.S. Capitol, federal employees he believed were responsible for ordering and orchestrating the “war on Muslims.”

It is interesting that even a Muslim would-be terrorist like Amine El Khalifi expressed a dislike for attacking American civilians, even though the United States bombs and kills Muslim civilians with impunity, without a second thought or national discussion, and on an order of magnitude that El Khalifi could never even imagine to have done himself.  Indeed, as Foreign Policy Magazine calculated:

[T]he United States has killed nearly 30 Muslims for every American lost. The real ratio is probably much higher, and a reasonable upper bound for Muslim fatalities (based mostly on higher estimates of “excess deaths” in Iraq due to the sanctions regime and the post-2003 occupation) is well over one million, equivalent to over 100 Muslim fatalities for every American lost.

It goes without saying that Amine El Khalifi’s actions are morally repugnant.  But, to put this into perspective: whereas El Khalife had said he “would be happy killing 30 people”, the United States has killed “well over one million” Muslim civilians.  As George Orwell wrote:

Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them. There is almost no kind of outrage—torture, imprisonment without trial, assassination, the bombing of civilians—which does not change its moral color when it is committed by ‘our’ side. The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

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The FBI needs to engineer and then thwart these terrorist threats because there is not enough real “Islamic terrorism” in the United States to justify the War on Terror.  Such FBI-generated terror scares enable not just the stripping away of civil liberties at home, but more importantly, serve to justify America’s wars abroad.  There is a need for Americans to fear being attacked by Muslims in order for them to go along with waging wars of aggression against various Muslim countries.

The media has been beating the drums of war against yet another Muslim country: Iran.  Glenn Greenwald has dubbed CNN’s Erin Burnett the “worst of the worst” in this regard.  (Greenwald’s article and his earlier piece on the subject are must reads.)  Burnett’s reporting on the issue is nothing short of war propaganda.  In it, she warns of “Iran’s threat to the United States in the United States–right here at home.”  Her report asks: “Is Iran planning an attack in America?”

Without any evidence whatsoever, Burnett looms: “[On a] much more real and frightening scale, Iran could attack the United States in a much more fearsome way…Iran’s next target could be here in the nation’s largest city.”  Egypt could attack the United States; South Africa could attack the United States; Canada could attack the United States; does that mean we bomb any of these countries?  Martians could attack the United States–let’s nuke Mars before they get a chance to do that!

American hawks are clearly looking for a smoking gun–an attack on U.S. soil that could justify launching a war against Iran.  There are so few real Muslim terrorists, as Prof. Charles Kurzman argues in his book The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists, that the FBI needs to generate Muslim terror plots.

There is another related point I’d like to address here: Erin Burnett had on her show the fervently anti-Muslim bigot Peter King, who led the congressional hearings against Muslims.  Rep. King warned of the grave Iranian threat and made the case for war against Iran.

From time to time, a few readers have complained that our site, which is designed to expose Islamophobia, has turned “too political”–that we talk about America’s foreign policy too much instead of simply documenting the Islamophobia of the nation’s leading anti-Muslim loons.  I take the full “blame” for this: the Erin Burnett segment shows how intrinsically connected Islamophobia and America’s wars are.  Peter King, a classic anti-Muslim loon, is on a “respectable” news channel–CNN–to discuss why we need to attack another Muslim country.  America’s war cheerleaders and Islamophobes work hand-in-hand.

There is an undeniable link between Islamophobia and American foreign policy: indeed, it is the latter which gave birth to the former, and the former that feeds the latter.  Quite simply, America’s wars are Islamophobic in and of themselves.  Documenting Islampohobia without mentioning the wars would be like talking about American racism against blacks in the 1800′s without ever mentioning the institution of slavery.

*  *  *  *  *

Lastly, I’d like to comment on the ever evolving threat of Islamic terrorism.  First, we were told that Afghanistan was the epicenter of Islamic terrorism.  Then, it was Iraq.  Then, Barack Obama reminded us that it was in fact Afghanistan after all.  Then, the “experts” started saying that “everyone knows that Pakistan is the center of Islamic terrorism.”  For some time, Syria and Yemen were also considered candidates for this title.  And remember when even many anti-war liberals would (ignorantly) argue that in reality it is Saudi Arabia that is the source of Islamic terror (because most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi)?  Now, it seems Iran is back at the top of the list.

The target of American belligerence keeps changing from one Muslim country to another–it’s a Madlibs with the blank reading “name a Muslim country”:  so far, fourteen different Muslim countries have been used to fill in the blank (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Iran, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia).  But why on earth would Amine El Khalifi or other Muslims come up with the absolutely crazy idea that America is at “war with Muslims”!?

Each time the threat changes and a new Muslim country is named the “center of Islamic terrorism” (everyone knows XYZ country is the real source of Islamic terrorism!), few stop to think or ask “wait, wasn’t it ABC country, not XYZ, that was the ‘epicenter of Islamic terrorism’?”  Most Americans acknowledge the War on Iraq was a “mistake” (that’s what it’s called when Western countries commit war crimes–these are “mistakes”–like how failing to stop at a stop sign for a full three seconds is a “mistake”–everyone makes mistakes!–hundreds of thousands of Muslim civilians die and this is called a “mistake”).  Even though the exact same process unfolds against Iran as it did against Iraq just a few short years ago, Americans continue to impress the world with their goldfish-like memories, with a majority of Americans supporting a military strike on Iran.

We will be told that it is all the media’s fault, and yes, the media has the lion’s share of the blame.  But, isn’t there something to be said of the jingoist, nativist, and belligerent attitude that is prevalent among us Americans in general?  One can convince our fellow Americans to bomb just about any country on earth–certainly a Muslim-sounding country.  And yet, at the same time, we are told how warlike those Moozlums over there are.

One thing is for certain: while we Americans continue to expand our knowledge of geography by targeting and bombing various Muslim countries –Muslims in the Muslim world are unified in their belief that it is the United States and Israel that are the greatest threats to their safety and world peace.  It is, I think, difficult to argue otherwise.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

Spencer Ackerman: FBI Purges Hundreds of Terrorism Documents in Islamophobia Probe

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on February 15, 2012 by loonwatch

FBI_Islamophobia

The Islamophobic anti-Muslim hysteria that pervades the FBI is being covered up:

FBI Purges Hundreds of Terrorism Documents in Islamophobia Probe

by Spencer Ackerman (Wired.com)

An internal FBI investigation into its counterterrorism training has purged hundreds of bureau documents of instructional material about Muslims, some of which characterized them as prone to violence or terrorism.

The bureau disclosed initial findings from its months-long review during a meeting at FBI headquarters on Wednesday with several Arab and Muslim advocacy groups, attended by Director Robert Mueller. So far, the inquiry has uncovered and purged over 700 pages of documentation from approximately 300 presentations given to agents since 9/11 — some of which were similar to briefings published by Danger Room last year describing “mainstream” Muslims as “violent.” And more disclosures may be forthcoming, as the FBI continues its inquiry and responds to Freedom of Information Act requests for the documents themselves.

FBI spokesman Christopher Allen confirms to Danger Room that the bureau found some of the documents to be objectionable because they were inaccurate or over-broad, others because they were offensive. Allen explains that the documents represent “less than 1 percent” of over 160,000 documents reviewed by the inquiry, which was prompted by a Danger Room investigation in September. The FBI purged documents according to four criteria: “factual errors”; “poor taste”; employment of “stereotypes” about Arabs or Muslims; or presenting information that “lacked precision.”

Danger Room uncovered several such documents in the fall, including some instructing FBI counterterrorism agents that “mainstream” Muslims sympathized with terrorists; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult” leader; and that the more “devout” a Muslim was, the more likely he would be to commit a violent act. Some documents even purported to graph the correlation. The FBI initially said the instruction occurred “one time only.” But when Danger Room uncovered additional anti-Islam materials — in briefings that compared Islam to the Death Star; in books on the shelves of the FBI training library at Quantico; and in pages hosted on internal FBI websites — the bureau began an extensive internal review.

Salam al-Marayati, the executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, attended the FBI meeting. He came away worried that the volume of anti-Muslim training documents hands al-Qaida an unnecessary win.

“People will report criminal activity to the authorities, that’s been proven time and again,” Marayati tells Danger Room. “But if we are giving propaganda to al-Qaida, resuscitating this dying ideology that al-Qaida is promoting, by continually exposing anti-Muslim propaganda published by the government, that undermines our pluralism, which is the best defense against any transnational ideological threat.”

 

Others think that the FBI can’t stop at purging internal documents. “It’s a bit hard to avoid the conclusion there isn’t a problem of culture in the [FBI] training division,” says Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab-American Institute, whose subordinates also attended the meeting. “It’s one that appears to have some built-in biases when it comes to the Arab-American and Muslim-American communities.” Allen declined to respond.

But the FBI isn’t finished. The bureau plans to publish a “touchstone document” in the coming weeks that explains its criteria to ensure new anti-Islam documents won’t enter counterterrorism training in the future. Similarly, the Justice Department plans on March 21 to release “Cultural Competency” guidelines for dealing with Arab and Muslim communities on counterterrorism, according to Xochitl Hinojosa, a department spokeswoman.

Several civil-rights advocates said they appreciated Mueller’s personal attention. The Wednesday meeting had been scheduled by the FBI’s public-affairs arm, whose deputy assistant director, Jeff Mazanec, briefed the groups for about 40 minutes before Mueller unexpectedly joined.

“Director Mueller acknowledged the seriousness of our concerns and expressed a commitment to maintaining contact with the inter-religious community,” says Rev. C. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance, another attendee at the meeting. Mueller “seemed to understand the hurt and pain as well as the fear, engendered by the offensive, inappropriate and insensitive materials.”

But the worst may not have passed. Allen acknowledged that the internal review, assisted by the Army’s counterterrorism specialists at West Point, hasn’t yet concluded. Several additional organizations have filed Freedom of Information Act requests for the specific offending documents; attendees came away with the impression that their disclosure will be ugly.

The White House ordered a government-wide review of counterterrorism training late last year. A Pentagon document responding to the order cited Danger Room’s series as an impetus for the effort.

Berry says she could “see the seriousness with which [the FBI] has approached this.” But she calls the problem a “systemic” one, with urgent implications for U.S. domestic counterterrorism — a concern voiced by Attorney General Eric Holder as well.

“They’ve never owned this problem. It’s not a problem of outside contractors,” she tells Danger Room. “They’re producing these kind of documents that inhibit our counterterrorism efforts. We need our communities engaged, and these have done nothing but alienate us.”

New York Times Article Understates How Overstated Islamic Terrorism Threat Really Is

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2012 by loonwatch

The New York Times recently reported on a study that showed how exaggerated the threat of “Islamic” terrorism is–how “Radical Muslim Americans Pose Little Threat.”  The article is a good one, but in fact, it doesn’t adequately convey how truly minuscule the threat is.  I’ll reproduce the article below and then briefly recount why Americans (and Europeans) shouldn’t fear Islamic terrorism at all:

Radical U.S. Muslims Little Threat, Study Says

WASHINGTON — A feared wave of homegrown terrorism by radicalized Muslim Americans has not materialized, with plots and arrests dropping sharply over the two years since an unusual peak in 2009, according to a new study by a North Carolina research group.

The study, to be released on Wednesday, found that 20 Muslim Americans were charged in violent plots or attacks in 2011, down from 26 in 2010 and a spike of 47 in 2009.

Charles Kurzman, the author of the report for the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, called terrorism by Muslim Americans “a minuscule threat to public safety.” Of about 14,000 murders in the United States last year, not a single one resulted from Islamic extremism, said Mr. Kurzman, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina.

The report also found that no single ethnic group predominated among Muslims charged in terrorism cases last year — six were of Arab ancestry, five were white, three were African-American and two were Iranian, Mr. Kurzman said. That pattern of ethnic diversity has held for those arrested since Sept. 11, 2001, he said.

Forty percent of those charged in 2011 were converts to Islam, Mr. Kurzman found, slightly higher than the 35 percent of those charged since the 2001 attacks. His new report is based on the continuation of research he conducted for a book he published last year, “The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists.”

The decline in cases since 2009 has come as a relief to law enforcement and counterterrorism officials. In that year, the authorities were surprised by a series of terrorist plots or attacks, including the killing of 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., by an Army psychiatrist who had embraced radical Islam, Maj. Nidal Hasan.

The upsurge in domestic plots two years ago prompted some scholars of violent extremism to question the conventional wisdom that Muslims in the United States, with higher levels of education and income than the average American, were not susceptible to the message of Al Qaeda.

Concerns grew after the May 2010 arrest of Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen, for trying to blow up a sport utility vehicle in Times Square. Mr. Shahzad had worked as a financial analyst and seemed thoroughly assimilated. In a dramatic courtroom speech after pleading guilty, he blamed American military action in Muslim countries for his militancy.

The string of cases fueled wide and often contentious discussion of the danger of radicalization among American Muslims, including Congressional hearings led by Representative Peter T. King, a Long Island Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

But the number of cases declined, returning to the rough average of about 20 Muslim Americans accused of extremist violence per year that has prevailed since the 2001 attacks, with 193 people in that category over the decade. By Mr. Kurzman’s count, 462 other Muslim Americans have been charged since 2001 for nonviolent crimes in support of terrorism, including financing and making false statements.

The 2011 cases include just one actual series of attacks, which caused no injuries, involving rifle shots fired late at night at military buildings in Northern Virginia. A former Marine Corps reservist, Yonathan Melaku, pleaded guilty in the case last month in an agreement that calls for a 25-year prison sentence.

Other plots unearthed by law enforcement last year and listed in Mr. Kurzman’s report included a suspected Iranian plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, a scheme to attack a Shiite mosque in Michigan and another to blow up synagogues, churches and the Empire State Building.

“Fortunately, very few of these people are competent and very few get to the stage of preparing an attack without coming to the attention of the authorities,” Mr. Kurzman said.

Here are some key points that the article could have included to have truly conveyed how absolutely minuscule the threat of Islamic terrorism is to Americans (and Europeans):

1.  According to the FBI’s own database (available from 1980-2005), less than 6% of terrorist attacks in America were committed by Muslims.

2.  Europol has been documenting terrorism for the last half decade.  Their annual terrorism reports show that less than 1% of terrorism in Europe involves Muslims.

3.  Since 9/11–which was over a decade ago–zero U.S. civilians have been killed by Islamic terrorists.

4.  Similarly, zero European civilians have been killed by Islamic terrorists in the last half decade.  In fact, the only injuries incurred from Islamic terrorism were to a security guard who “was slightly wounded.”  Perhaps the “anti-jihadist” blogosphere should find this one security guard and give him a medal of honor and declare him a martyr for the cause.

Putting this into perspective, you as an American have a much greater chance of being struck or even killed by lightning than being killed by an Islamic terrorist.  Using conservative estimates, at least 300 Americans are struck by lightning every year, and of them, 67 die–way higher than the whopping zero Americans that die every year from Islamic terrorists.

Another way to think of this is that you as an American have a much higher chance of dying from a peanut than an Islamic terrorist: at least 120 Americans die from an allergic reaction to peanuts every year.  Should we wage a War on Peanuts?

The NYT article also fails to mention that many of those people arrested on charges of Islamic terrorism were in fact goaded into terrorism by the FBI, which has a habit of using entrapment as a means to orchestrate–and then foil–its own terrorist plots.  (See Glenn Greenwald’s article: The FBI Thwarts Its Own Terrorist Plot.)  That could explain why the number of arrests for Islamic terrorism do not match up with actual attacks and casualties.

Dr. Charles Kurzman is quoted in the article as saying of the would-be Islamic terrorists: “Fortunately, very few of these people are competent and very few get to the stage of preparing an attack without coming to the attention of the authorities.”  But, it’s not just that they happen to come to the attention of the authorities in the nick of time: it’s the fact that the authorities are the ones who fed them the idea of being terrorists in the first place.  That’s why so “few get to the stage of preparing an attack,” since they are being monitored even before the thought comes to their mind.

Even more worrisome is the fact that the vast majority of Muslims arrested on terrorism-related offenses have been accused of, as the article says, “non-violent crimes in support of terrorism, including financing and making false statements.”  Many of these arrests have been widely criticized by civil rights groups because six-degrees of association are used to incriminate American Muslims.

One other interesting aside: the NYT article mentions the Fort Hood Shooting, which was labeled as an act of Terrorism.  The shooter, Major Nidal Hasan, was charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and the Army’s prosecutor is seeking the death penalty.  Hasan’s victims were all soldiers (aside from one, who was part of the U.S. Army Reserves).

Meanwhile, Staff Sargent Frank Wuterich was responsible for butchering 24 Iraqi civilians in what is called the Haditha Massacre: under his command, American soldiers systematically exterminated Muslim civilians, killing them execution-style.  This has been corroborated by eyewitness account, forensic and photographic evidence.  Yet, not only did the Army prosecutor not seek the death penalty for this war crime, but instead charged him with “involuntary manslaughter” and sought a maximum penalty of 90 days in the brig.  Even this Lindsay Lohan-style punishment was dropped in a plea bargain, with Wuterich let off with zero jail time and just a pay cut and demotion.  He didn’t even get fired.  Imagine walking into your job and shooting another employee and not getting fired!

Eight U.S. soldiers were charged for the Haditha Massacre.  Charges were dropped for six of them, and the seventh was acquitted.  Only one, Frank Wuterich, was held to account and all he got was a slap on the wrist: a pay cut and demotion.  Meanwhile, when it comes to acts of Islamic terrorism, it’s not just the perpetrators who are sought out and punished, but rather, their financiers, their supposed financiers, those who “harbored” them, those who made “false statements”, those who even gave them a pair of socks to wear or ponchos and raincoats to use, etc. etc.  Whole religions, nations, and civilizations are blamed for such acts.  Countries are bombed because they are held to be responsible.  But, the United States government could not find any responsibility or guilt in the men who actually held guns in their hands as they blasted a couple dozen Iraqi civilians–men, women, and children–to death.

Haditha Massacre

Imagine the comparison between these two men: Hasan is a Muslim and is therefore a Terrorist, even though he only acted against soldiers.  Meanwhile, nobody in the media (or anywhere for that matter) has called Wuterich a Terrorist, even though he slaughtered civilians.  Wuterich committed this act of terrorism ”negligent dereliction of duty” (that’s the euphemism we use to refer to the butchering of 24 Muslim civilians) as a retaliation for the killing of an American soldier (a soldier who was on Iraqi soil and part of an occupying force) by an IED.  If Hasan had killed 24 American civilians in Meriden, Connecticut (Wuterich’s home city) in retaliation for the death of a Muslim civilian from a U.S. drone strike, would anybody be calling this anything other than Terrorism?  Had that been the case, the right-wing and the media would be on a continuous spin cycle talking about how Evil and Dangerous those Moozlums are.   Muslims would be bending over backwards issuing apology after apology and uttering the mandatory serial condemnations of Terrorism.

A friend emailed me a comment made on Facebook by someone in the U.S. military, who said (in defense of Frank Wuterich):

Is it hard for me to believe that a human being lost his mind at the sight of the man fighting to his left being blown to pieces? No. It absolutely is not.

Why is it then so hard for you to believe that a human being lost his mind at the sight of seeing his entire family, neighborhood, village, and country being blown to bits by Americans (or Israelis)?  That he would then want to retaliate by killing Americans (or Israelis) just as Wuterich took his vengeance out on Iraqi civilians?  Palestinians have had their entire villages wiped off the face of the earth, yet I do not think this person (or the average American) would be so forgiving when that Palestinian would then take it out on Israelis.

Nidal Hasan, a Muslim, killed 13 soldiers on a U.S. military base, whom he specifically targeted because they were about to be dispatched to join an occupation force in Iraq and Afghanistan, two Muslim countries that have been savaged by the United States.   Meanwhile, Frank Wuterich was part of an occupying force and killed 24 Muslim civilians–civilians in a country that was occupied and savaged by the United States.  The former is an act of Terrorism; the latter is “negligent dereliction of duty.”  If you’re a Muslim, then it’s Terrorism; if you’re fighting Muslims, then at most it’s “negligent dereliction of duty.”

This is, as Glenn Greenwald always says, the true definition of the word “Terrorist”:

It means:  anyone — especially of the Muslim religion and/or Arab nationality — who fights against the United States and its allies or tries to impede their will.  That’s what “Terrorism” is; that’s all it means.

I’ve been inspired by an image I saw here to create this image to properly depict the situation:

Wuterich killed 24 Iraqi civilians in retaliation for one U.S. soldier being killed (a soldier, mind you, who was part of an occupying force on Iraqi soil).  Why are we so amazed at how primitive and backwards those Muslims are when they get angry about the over one million civilians we have killed of theirs?

Hasan’s act of violence is troublesome from a moral point of view because it occurred on U.S. soil, but Greenwald points to an example that occurred on Iraqi soil: this is the case of Faruq Khalil Muhammad Isa, an Iraqi born man who was officially accused of “Terrorism” for “the Murder of Five American Soldiers” on Iraqi soil.  Greenwald notes:

Isa is charged with “providing material support to a terrorist conspiracy” because he allegedly supported a 2008 attack on a U.S. military base in Mosul that killed 5 American soldiers. In other words, if the U.S. invades and occupies your country, and you respond by fighting back against the invading army — the ultimate definition of a “military, not civilian target” — then you are a . . . Terrorist.

Putting that in graphic form, we have:

Were the civilians of Haditha not “terrorized” by Frank Wuterich and his men?  Wasn’t that exactly the point of the massacre: to terrorize the Iraqi population to the point where they would no longer resist American soldiers?  Were the Muslim civilians killed in Haditha any less in a state of terror–terrorized–than the soldiers on the Fort Hood base?

One last point: the NYT’s article fails to make the logical conclusion: it’s not enough to say that the threat of Islamic terrorism is overblown.  Rather, the real question is why it is so: it’s to justify our many wars in the Muslim world and our occupations of their lands.  It’s war propaganda.

Addendum I:  

I would like to apologize for comparing Lindsay Lohan to Frank Wuterich: prosecutors sought much longer jail sentences on her than him, and she spent more time in jail than he did.  Does anyone want to create a side-by-side image comparison of Lohan and Wuterich?  I’ll update the article and put it up if it’s worthy enough.

Update I:

Here’s another “fun” graphic I just created:

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.