Archive for Federal Bureau of Investigation

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.

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.”

FBI’s Involvement with Anti-Muslim Islamophobes More Extensive than Previously Admitted

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2011 by loonwatch

The FBI’s incompetence is becoming ever more clear. One of the anti-loons of the year, Spencer Ackerman takes them apart once again.

Books, Lectures, Websites: Fresh Evidence for FBI’s Anti-Islam Training

by Spencer Ackerman (wired.com)

Following months of denials, the FBI is now promising a “comprehensive review of all training and reference materials” after Danger Room revealed a series of Bureau presentations that tarred average Muslims as “radical” and “violent.”

But untangling the Islamophobic thread woven into the FBI’s counterterrorism training culture won’t be easy. In addition to inflammatory seminars which likened Islam to the Death Star and Mohammed to a “cult leader,” Danger Room has obtained more material showing just how wide the anti-Islam meme has spread throughout the Bureau.

The FBI library at Quantico currently stacks books from authors who claim that “Islam and democracy are totally incompatible.” The Bureau’s private intranet recently featured presentations that claimed to demonstrate the “inherently violent nature of Islam,” according to multiple sources. Earlier this year, the Bureau’s Washington Field Office welcomed a speaker who claimed Islamic law prevents Muslims from being truly loyal Americans. And as recently as last week, the online orientation material for the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces included claims that Sunni Islam seeks “domination of the world,” according to a law enforcement source.

“I don’t think anyone with half a brain would paint 1.2 billion people of any ethnic or religious persuasion with a single brushstroke,” Mike Rolince, an FBI counterterrorism veteran who started Boston’s JTTF, tells Danger Room. “Who did they run that curriculum by — either an internal or outside expert — to get some balance?”

The FBI declined to respond directly to such questions from Danger Room. But what’s clear is that the anti-Islam sentiment in the FBI’s training and orientation isn’t the marginal problem that the Bureau portrayed in its previous public statements and press releases. It’s not a historical problem, it’s ongoing. And it will require substantial effort to root out. Not even a July warning from the office of a powerful senator was able to spur the Bureau to purge itself of its anti-Islam material.

One example is found in the mandatory orientation material for the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces, or JTTFs. Those task forces are a nationwide partnership between the FBI, intelligence analysts and state and local police. As of late last week, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the program, new members or those needing a belated orientation saw this description of Sunnism — the largest branch of Islam — as part of their online training course:

Sunni Muslims have been prolific in spawning numerous and varied fundamentalist extremist terrorist organizations. Sunni core doctrine and end state have remained the same and they continue to strive for Sunni Islamic domination of the world to prove a key Quranic assertion that no system of government or religion on earth can match the Quran’s purity and effectiveness for paving the road to God.

That paragraph is contained in orientation material, known as the Joint Terrorism Task Force Orientation v2 course, distributed online through a secure intranet for every member of the JTTFs. That’s approximately 4,400 officials, according to FBI figures, all charged with stopping terrorism. The orientation course is mandatory for every member of the task force.

The passage is especially odd because most of the orientation consists of practical, mundane information, such as the proper forms to fill out during an inquiry or FBI standards for investigations, according to the source. It consists of five sections, one of which is about Islam, Muslims and Arab culture. The supervisor of each JTTF has to certify that all his or her personnel have completed the online orientation course, and then must pass that certification up to FBI Headquarters’ Counterterrorism Division.

The FBI would neither confirm nor deny the existence of the JTTF orientation material.

The excerpt from the JTTF orientation material was provided to Danger Room by a concerned law enforcement official, who says the material contains 20 paragraphs about Islam in a similar vein. Several Bureau and law enforcement officials who spoke to Danger Room on condition of anonymity believe that such instructions are detrimental to uncovering and thwarting terrorist plots, and that the FBI continues to be less than forthright with the press and the public about the extent of its teaching that Islam is at the root of the menace of terrorism. Evidence for this continuing belief can be found in Quantico, Virginia, at the FBI’s elite training academy.
Within the sprawling campus of that academy, Quantico maintains a library befitting the FBI’s status as America’s most important law enforcement agency. It stacks thousands of books, from heavy tomes containing the U.S. criminal code to forensics reference material that could be out of CSI, across three unclassified floors. The library is open to all FBI agents, plus intelligence officials and police from across the country, for a single purpose: to provide background material for cases, guidance material for intelligence analysis and other tools meant directly to aid law enforcement. In other words, it’s not your public library.

There’s a section on religion — in which Islam, perhaps understandably, predominates. A law enforcement source provided Danger Room with a photographic catalog, compiled in late August, of approximately 100 books on Islam out of around 150 stacked at Quantico. Many of them are innocuous or contain unquestioned scholarship, ranging from authors like Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics, Juan Cole of the University of Michigan and Thomas Hegghammer, a terrorism expert at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment.

But, significantly, the library also contains books by anti-Islam authors that portray the religion as devoted to murder and world domination.

There’s Militant Islam Reaches America by Daniel Pipes, who claims to have “confirmed” that President Obama was once a practicing Muslim, and whose book asks, “Why would terrorists oppress women if this did not have something to do with their Islamic outlook?” A book called Islamikaze: Manifestations of Islamic Martyrology ties “normative Islam” to “horrendous cruelty and inhumanity.” The editor of the anthology Muhammad’s Monsters has previously written that “Islam and democracy are totally incompatible, and are mutually inconclusive. The same applies to Modernity, which is perceived as a threat to Islamic civilization.”

And there is also Onward Muslim Soldiers by Robert Spencer. Spencer is one of the U.S.’ leading opponents of Islam. Along with the blogger Pamela Geller, Spencer leads a group called Stop Islamicization of America, which “promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of fighting radical Islam,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. Spencer’s work was cited 64 times in the political manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the Oslo terrorist who killed 69 people earlier this year.

When Danger Room presented the FBI in July with recently declassified material showing that its Law Enforcement Training Unit recommended one of Spencer’s other books to agents, its response was unequivocal: “The presentation in question was a rudimentary version used for a limited time that has since been replaced.” Onward Muslim Soldiers was available for checkout in the Quantico library as recently as late August.

The FBI’s dalliance with Robert Spencer is not limited to the stacks of Quantico. In July 2010, Spencer presented what he described as “two two-hour seminars on the belief-system of Islamic jihadists” to the JTTF in Tidewater, Virginia. He presented a similar lecture to the U.S. Attorney’s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council, which is co-hosted by the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office. When a coalition of civil rights groups sent a letter protesting the FBI’s embrace of Spencer, the Special Agent in Charge of the Norfolk FBI, Alex J. Turner, replied, “Seeking broad knowledge on a wide range of topics is essential in understanding today’s terrorist environment, and helps us to defeat ignorance and strengthen relationships with the diverse communities we serve.”

Spencer was only one of an array of self-anointed experts delivering similar messages about Islam to Bureau audiences.

On January 11, the FBI’s Washington, D.C. Field Office held a seminar on Islamic extremism. In the conference room of its Judiciary Square offices, about 60 of the Field Office’s agents and intelligence analysts spent the morning hearing two presentations — one from terrorism expert Sebastian Gorka, a fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and another from a self-identified expert on Islamic law, Stephen Coughlin, a former consultant to the military’s Joint Staff. The takeaway of Coughlin’s presentation, according to an attendee: Islam is out to take over the world and there is no such thing as a loyal American Muslim.

Coughlin was described to Danger Room as presenting a far more extreme take on Islam than Gorka, who spoke separately on the subject of “Core Texts of Salafi Jihad.” But Coughlin allegedly told the agents that Muslims believe Islamic law to be all-encompassing, preventing an either/or choice to U.S. Muslims: either reject the U.S. Constitution or fall into apostasy. Sharia law, Coughlin instructed in the tone of a neutral reporter, was a threat to the agents in the room. He explored an obscure Islamic concept known as “abrogation,” the supposition that some Koranic verses supersede others, to argue that the Koran’s non-violent passages are overtaken in Muslim eyes by commands to wage war against “non-believers.”

It’s a line Coughlin has long pushed. During a presentation at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2010 — in which he shared a stage with Spencer and Geller — Coughlin asserted that the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the geopolitical organization of Muslim nations, has a “ten-year plan” to make “defamation of Islam a crime” worldwide. One of his briefing slides read, “The SILENCE in the mainstream media on this DIRECT ASSAULT is DEAFENING! — not just on speech — but on thought itself!!” Coughlin’s 2007 master’s thesis at the National Defense Intelligence College claimed that President George W. Bush’s reassurance that the U.S. was not at war with Islam had a “a chilling effect on those tasked to define the enemy’s doctrine by effectively placing a policy bar on the unconstrained analysis of Islamic doctrine as a basis for this threat.” (.pdf) In 2008, his Joint Staff contract wasn’t renewed after a staffer for Gordon England, then the deputy secretary of defense, raised concerns about his work. (Through a spokesman, England declined to comment.)

Coughlin did not respond to requests for comment.

The presentation to the Washington Field Office wasn’t mandated by FBI Headquarters. It was set up on the initiative of a well-intentioned agent. But not everyone was comfortable with the presentation. Some walked out in boredom or disgust, according to the source.  Others made fun of it.

But some voiced worries that the presentation sent an implicit message to agents that they should be targeting Muslims in the name of stopping terrorism. And in the past few years, the FBI has accelerated its monitoring of mosques, community centers, businesses and other organizations run by Muslims. Several observers suspect that the persistence of training materials that casts Islam in a threatening light helps explain the increased surveillance. Others — including many counterterrorism professionals within the FBI who say they are disgusted by the bigoted material they’ve received — fear that the presentations will drive a wedge between the Bureau and the U.S. Muslim communities whose assistance it needs to prevent terrorism.

“Inappropriately enlarging the characterization of the threat to include all of Islam,” says Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, a former official with the National Counterterrorism Center, “may inadvertently increase al Qaida’s ideological resonance and could facilitate recruitment of would-be terrorists.”

Books in a library and presentations in a field office will only reach the agents who visit the library or work in the field office. A Joint Terrorism Task Force orientation will only reach JTTF members. But every FBI agent can access the bureau’s intranet. And until Danger Room’s expose, that network hosted material purporting to demonstrate “the inherently violent nature of Islam.”

Two law enforcement sources with access to the intranet — sections of which are classified — described to Danger Room its page on “Islamic Law.” FBI intranet users type in “Islamic Law” or “Islam” into a Google-like search function. Up pops what’s called a Subject Matter Expert page, or SME, pronounced “Smee.” Usually, an agent seeking a SME will be searching for material directly relevant to an ongoing investigation or a timely intelligence product. But the SME for “Islamic Law” recently featured uploaded documents stretching all the way back to the 19th century, with titles like “The Personal Law of The Mahommedans.”

One such document is a text from 1915, titled “Mohammed Or Christ: An Account Of The Rapid Spread of Islam In All Parts of The Globe, The Methods Employed to Obtain Proselytes, Its Immense Press, Its Strongholds, & Suggested Means to be Adopted to Counteract the Evil.” That explicitly religious and archaic tome instructs that its purpose is “to set forth the appeal of that [Muslim] world for the Gospel. It is a decisive hour!”

Another is a Regent University master’s thesis called “Devoutly Violent or Nominally Peaceful? The Justification for Violence in Islam.” It asks: “[S]eeing as the foremost goal of Islam (which literally means ’submission’) is to subject the entire world to Shari’a law and Allah’s guidance, can a devout Muslim who witnesses to a Christian (who rejects his invitation to Islam) really not become violent? … In conclusion, this thesis demonstrates the inherently violent nature of Islam.”

In the image above, formerly available on the FBI’s “Islamic Law” SME, a thermometer represents a correlation between the Muslim population of a country and its “violence level.” As Muslims accumulate in a given place, they incline toward “grievance fabrication,” then “chronic terror attacks,” and even “state-run ethnic cleansing.” The final stage is “peace” — in an all-Muslim state.

Two law enforcement sources told Danger Room that after our coverage of the FBI’s training materials ran, the “Islamic Law” SME and similar FBI intranet sites were scrubbed of such material. Danger Room was able to acquire some of these documents before they were removed.

Other materials reinforced the message delivered on the FBI’s internal network. A 2006 FBI intelligence assessment judged that “conversion” to Islam or intensifying Islamic faith (.PDF) could be early-warning signs of terrorism — a judgment that would apply to millions of American citizens. That assessment is still in official use, according to the FBI, even though one of its public responses to our expose was a public assurance that “Strong religious beliefs should never be confused with violent extremism. Views that are contrary should not and will not be taught to FBI employees.”

Asked to reconcile that statement with the 2006 assessment, FBI spokesman Christopher Allen replied, “The assessment you cite includes a series of indicators of radicalization. These indicators do not conflict with our statement that strong religious beliefs should never be confused with violent extremism.”
http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1
The FBI is now in damage-control mode. On Thursday afternoon, the FBI held a conference call with Muslim civil rights groups to apologize for its offensive training materials and admit that they were more extensive than it previously acknowledged. The FBI did not make any commitments on which outside experts or organizations it would consult for an updated training curriculum. But according to one participant, the FBI representative on the call said that many people within the Bureau disapproved of the anti-Islamic rhetoric. The FBI’s Allen declined to comment.

“We are glad that this very serious issue has finally received the attention of FBI leadership,” says Farhana Khera, executive director of the San Francisco-based civil rights group Muslim Advocates, “but an internal review is insufficient at this stage. In the last year, the FBI has either defended its use of bigoted trainers or emphatically assured the public that the various trainings were one-time, isolated incidents. Each time those assurances were later revealed to be false.”

Muslim Advocates sent a letter to the Justice Department Inspector General last week seeking an investigation. It has yet to receive a reply. However, the chairs of the Senate’s homeland security and intelligence committees have separately told Danger Room they will subject the FBI’s counterterrorism training to scrutiny.

For months, in fact, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), has raised concerns that law enforcement at all levels lacks “meaningful standards” for counterterrorism training. In the course of his ongoing inquiry on the subject, Lieberman’s staff became aware of a particularly problematic individual: an FBI intelligence analyst named William Gawthrop.

In April, Gawthrop presented a three-day briefing at the FBI’s Quantico training facility to counterterrorism agents in which he equated “mainstream” Islam with terrorism. In earlier interviews, he mused about triggering a “deteriorating cascade effect” upon Islam, convincing Muslims to abandon their religion by attacking “soft spots” in the Islamic faith. And he has lectured widely about the “threat” of Islam, ostensibly as a private citizen.

Lieberman staffers were appalled by the “inappropriate materials being used by Mr. Gawthrop and notified the FBI in mid-July of their concerns,” says Leslie Phillips, Communications Director of the Homeland Security Committee.

The FBI wouldn’t directly comment on the committee’s warning, instead reiterating the Bureau’s new commitment to a wide-ranging review — one that will stretch from Quantico to the FBI’s many field offices to the J. Edgar Hoover Building, its Washington headquarters.

“The senator hopes the FBI will take appropriate action to prohibit these and any other inaccurate training materials from being used in the future,” Phillips adds.

In the meantime, Gawthrop is, as of this writing, still an FBI counterterrorism analyst. And the message he helped inculcate in the Bureau lingers.

See Also:

FBI Teaches Agents: ‘Mainstream’ Muslims Are ‘Violent, Radical’

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2011 by loonwatch

FBI Teaches Agents: ‘Mainstream’ Muslims Are ‘Violent, Radical’

by Spencer Ackerman

The FBI is teaching its counterterrorism agents that “main stream” [sic] American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult leader”; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a “funding mechanism for combat.”

At the Bureau’s training ground in Quantico, Virginia, agents are shown a chart contending that the more “devout” a Muslim, the more likely he is to be “violent.” Those destructive tendencies cannot be reversed, an FBI instructional presentation adds: “Any war against non-believers is justified” under Muslim law; a “moderating process cannot happen if the Koran continues to be regarded as the unalterable word of Allah.”

These are excerpts from dozens of pages of recent FBI training material on Islam that Danger Room has acquired. In them, the Constitutionally protected religious faith of millions of Americans is portrayed as an indicator of terrorist activity.

“There may not be a ‘radical’ threat as much as it is simply a normal assertion of the orthodox ideology,” one FBI presentation notes. “The strategic themes animating these Islamic values are not fringe; they are main stream.”

The FBI isn’t just treading on thin legal ice by portraying ordinary, observant Americans as terrorists-in-waiting, former counterterrorism agents say. It’s also playing into al-Qaida’s hands.

Focusing on the religious behavior of American citizens instead of proven indicators of criminal activity like stockpiling guns or using shady financing makes it more likely that the FBI will miss the real warning signs of terrorism. And depicting Islam as inseparable from political violence is exactly the narrative al-Qaida spins — as is the related idea that America and Islam are necessarily in conflict. That’s why FBI whistleblowers provided Danger Room with these materials.

Over the past few years, American Muslim civil rights groups have raised alarm about increased FBI and police presence in Islamic community centers and mosques, fearing that their lawful behavior is being targeted under the broad brush of counterterrorism. The documents may help explain the heavy scrutiny.

They certainly aren’t the first time the FBI has portrayed Muslims in a negative light during Bureau training sessions. As Danger Room reported in July, the FBI’s Training Division has included anti-Islam books, and materials that claim Islam “transforms [a] country’s culture into 7th-century Arabian ways.” When Danger Room confronted the FBI with that material, an official statement issued to us claimed, “The presentation in question was a rudimentary version used for a limited time that has since been replaced.”

But these documents aren’t relics from an earlier era. One of these briefings, titled “Strategic Themes and Drivers in Islamic Law,” took place on March 21.

The Islam briefings are elective, not mandatory. “A disclaimer accompanied the presentation stating that the views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. government,” FBI spokesman Christopher Allen tells Danger Room.

“The training materials in question were delivered as Stage Two training to counterterrorism-designated agents,” Allen adds. “This training was largely derived from a variety of open source publications and includes the opinion of the analyst that developed the lesson block.”

Not all counterterrorism veterans consider the briefings so benign. “Teaching counterterrorism operatives about obscure aspects of Islam,” says Robert McFadden, who recently retired as one of the Navy Criminal Investigative Service’s al-Qaida-hunters, “without context, without objectivity, and without covering other non-religious drivers of dangerous behavior is no way to stop actual terrorists.”

Still, at Quantico, the alleged connection between Islam and violence isn’t just stipulated. It’s literally graphed.

An FBI presentation titled “Militancy Considerations” measures the relationship between piety and violence among the texts of the three Abrahamic faiths. As time goes on, the followers of the Torah and the Bible move from “violent” to “non-violent.” Not so for devotees of the Koran, whose “moderating process has not happened.” The line representing violent behavior from devout Muslims flatlines and continues outward, from 610 A.D. to 2010. In other words, religious Muslims have been and always will be agents of aggression.

Training at Quantico isn’t designed for intellectual bull sessions or abstract theory, according to FBI veterans. The FBI conducts its training so that both seasoned agents and new recruits can sharpen their investigative skills.

In this case, the FBI’s Allen says, the counterterrorism agents who received these briefings have “spent two to three years on the job.” The briefings are written accordingly. The stated purpose of one, about allegedly religious-sanctioned lying, is to “identify the elements of verbal deception in Islam and their impacts on Law Enforcement.” Not “terrorism.” Not even “Islamist extremism.” Islam.

What’s more, the Islamic “insurgency” is all-encompassing and insidious. In addition to outright combat, its “techniques” include “immigration” and “law suits.” So if a Muslim wishes to become an American or sues the FBI for harassment, it’s all just part of the jihad.

On Tuesday, the leaders of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), warned that law enforcement lacks “meaningful standards” to prevent anti-Islam material from seeping into counterterrorism training. Some FBI veterans suspect the increased pressure on American Muslims has a lot to do with the kind of training that Quantico offers.

“Seeing the materials FBI agents are being trained with certainly helps explain why we’ve seen so many inappropriate FBI surveillance operations broadly targeting the Muslim-American community, from infiltrating mosques with agents provocateur to racial- and ethnic-mapping programs,” Mike German, a former FBI agent now with the American Civil Liberties Union, tells Danger Room after being shown the documents. ”Biased police training can only result in biased policing.” (Full disclosure: This reporter’s wife works for the ACLU.)

The chief of the Training Division, Assistant FBI Director Thomas Browne, came into his current job in January. His official biography lists no terrorism expertise beyond serving as a coordinator for a bureau “Domestic Terrorism Program” in Tennessee sometime in the last decade.

It is unclear what vetting process the FBI used to approve these briefings; if any Muslim scholars contributed to them; and what criteria Quantico uses to determine Islamic expertise. “The development of effective training is a constantly evolving process,” says FBI spokesman Allen. “Sometimes the training is adapted for long-term use. This particular training segment was delivered a single time and not used since.”

Several of these briefings were the work of a single author: an FBI intelligence analyst named William Gawthrop. In 2006, before he joined the Bureau, he gave an interview to the website WorldNetDaily, and discussed some of the themes that made it into his briefings, years later. The Prophet “Muhammad’s mindset is a source for terrorism,” Gawthrop told the website, which would later distinguish itself as a leader of the “birther” movement, a conspiracy theory that denies President Obama’s American citizenship.

At the time, Gawthrop’s major suggestion for waging the war on terrorism was to attack what he called “soft spots” in Islamic faith that might “induce a deteriorating cascade effect upon the target.” That is, to discredit Islam itself and cause Muslims to abandon their religion. “Critical vulnerabilities of the Koran, for example, are that it was uttered by a mortal,” he said. Alas, he lamented, he faced the bureaucratic obstacle of official Washington’s “political taboo of linking Islamic violence to the religion of Islam,” according to the website.

Back then, however, Gawthrop didn’t work for the FBI. He had recently stepped down from a position with the Defense Department’s Counterintelligence Field Activity. That agency came under withering criticism during the Bush administration for keeping a database about threats to military bases that included reports on peaceful antiwar protesters and dovish Church groups. It is unclear how Gawthrop came to work for the FBI.

Through an intermediary, Gawthrop told Danger Room that he was unavailable for comment before our deadline.

The FBI didn’t always conflate terrorism with Islam. “I never saw that,” says Ali Soufan, one of the FBI’s most distinguished counterterrorism agents and author of the new memoir The Black Banners, who retired from the bureau in 2005. “Sometimes, toward the end of my time, I started noticing it with different entities outside the FBI. You started feeling like they had a problem with Islam-as-Islam, because of the media. But that was a few people, and was usually hidden behind closed doors.”

Soufan, a Muslim, has interrogated members of al-Qaida and contributed to rolling up one of its cells in Yemen after 9/11. But by the logic of the FBI’s training materials, Soufan’s religious practices make him a potential terrorist.

McFadden, the former NCIS counterterrorist, has a lot of respect for his FBI colleagues, who he believes are ill-served by these Islam briefings. “These are earnest special agents and police officers who want to know how do their job better,” McFadden says.

Too often, McFadden says, counterterrorism training becomes simultaneously over-broad and ignorant. “Instead of looking for indicators of nefarious behavior, you have a sweeping generalization of things like, for instance, the Hawala system,” McFadden explains. “It’s a system that most of the developing world and expatriates from it use to move money around, including terrorists. But you can’t say the whole hawala system is about terrorism, just like you can’t say that Islam as a whole has anything to do with bad behavior.”

McFadden, a Catholic, believes that obsessing over obscure Koranic verses is as useful a guide to terrorist behavior as “diving into the rite of exorcism” is to understanding Catholicism.

On April 6, barely two weeks after the “Islamic Motivations for ‘Suicide’ Bombers” briefing at Quantico, FBI Director Robert Mueller defended the bureau’s budget before a congressional committee. Among his major points: the FBI needs cooperation from American Muslims to stop the next terrorist attack.

“Since September 11th, every one of our 56 field offices and the leadership of those offices have had outreach to the Muslim community,” Mueller said. “We need the support of that community … our business is basically relationships.” That is exactly the opposite message sent in the training rooms of Quantico, where the next generation of FBI counterterrorism is shaped.

Photos: Flickr/Cliff1066, ISAF

F.B.I. Agents Get Leeway to Push Privacy Bounds

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on June 13, 2011 by loonwatch

There goes our privacy…oh wait…what privacy?

F.B.I. Agents Get Leeway to Push Privacy Bounds

By 

WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.

The F.B.I. soon plans to issue a new edition of its manual, called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, according to an official who has worked on the draft document and several others who have been briefed on its contents. The new rules add to several measures taken over the past decade to give agents more latitude as they search for signs of criminal or terrorist activity.

The F.B.I. recently briefed several privacy advocates about the coming changes. Among them, Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent who is now a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that it was unwise to further ease restrictions on agents’ power to use potentially intrusive techniques, especially if they lacked a firm reason to suspect someone of wrongdoing.

“Claiming additional authorities to investigate people only further raises the potential for abuse,” Mr. German said, pointing to complaints about the bureau’s surveillance of domestic political advocacy groups and mosques and to an inspector general’s findings in 2007 that the F.B.I. had frequently misused “national security letters,” which allow agents to obtain information like phone records without a court order.

Valerie E. Caproni, the F.B.I. general counsel, said the bureau had fixed the problems with the national security letters and had taken steps to make sure they would not recur. She also said the bureau, which does not need permission to alter its manual so long as the rules fit within broad guidelines issued by the attorney general, had carefully weighed the risks and the benefits of each change.

“Every one of these has been carefully looked at and considered against the backdrop of why do the employees need to be able to do it, what are the possible risks and what are the controls,” she said, portraying the modifications to the rules as “more like fine-tuning than major changes.”

Some of the most notable changes apply to the lowest category of investigations, called an “assessment.” The category, created in December 2008, allows agents to look into people and organizations “proactively” and without firm evidence for suspecting criminal or terrorist activity.

Under current rules, agents must open such an inquiry before they can search for information about a person in a commercial or law enforcement database. Under the new rules, agents will be allowed to search such databases without making a record about their decision.

Mr. German said the change would make it harder to detect and deter inappropriate use of databases for personal purposes. But Ms. Caproni said it was too cumbersome to require agents to open formal inquiries before running quick checks. She also said agents could not put information uncovered from such searches into F.B.I. files unless they later opened an assessment.

The new rules will also relax a restriction on administering lie-detector tests and searching people’s trash. Under current rules, agents cannot use such techniques until they open a “preliminary investigation,” which — unlike an assessment — requires a factual basis for suspecting someone of wrongdoing. But soon agents will be allowed to use those techniques for one kind of assessment, too: when they are evaluating a target as a potential informant.

Agents have asked for that power in part because they want the ability to use information found in a subject’s trash to put pressure on that person to assist the government in the investigation of others. But Ms. Caproni said information gathered that way could also be useful for other reasons, like determining whether the subject might pose a threat to agents.

The new manual will also remove a limitation on the use of surveillance squads, which are trained to surreptitiously follow targets. Under current rules, the squads can be used only once during an assessment, but the new rules will allow agents to use them repeatedly. Ms. Caproni said restrictions on the duration of physical surveillance would still apply, and argued that because of limited resources, supervisors would use the squads only rarely during such a low-level investigation.

The revisions also clarify what constitutes “undisclosed participation” in an organization by an F.B.I. agent or informant, which is subject to special rules — most of which have not been made public. The new manual says an agent or an informant may surreptitiously attend up to five meetings of a group before those rules would apply — unless the goal is to join the group, in which case the rules apply immediately.

At least one change would tighten, rather than relax, the rules. Currently, a special agent in charge of a field office can delegate the authority to approve sending an informant to a religious service. The new manual will require such officials to handle those decisions personally.

In addition, the manual clarifies a description of what qualifies as a “sensitive investigative matter” — investigations, at any level, that require greater oversight from supervisors because they involve public officials, members of the news media or academic scholars.

The new rules make clear, for example, that if the person with such a role is a victim or a witness rather than a target of an investigation, extra supervision is not necessary. Also excluded from extra supervision will be investigations of low- and midlevel officials for activities unrelated to their position — like drug cases as opposed to corruption, for example.

The manual clarifies the definition of who qualifies for extra protection as a legitimate member of the news media in the Internet era: prominent bloggers would count, but not people who have low-profile blogs. And it will limit academic protections only to scholars who work for institutions based in the United States.

Since the release of the 2008 manual, the assessment category has drawn scrutiny because it sets a low bar to examine a person or a group. The F.B.I. has opened thousands of such low-level investigations each month, and a vast majority has not generated information that justified opening more intensive investigations.

Ms. Caproni said the new manual would adjust the definition of assessments to make clear that they must be based on leads. But she rejected arguments that the F.B.I. should focus only on investigations that begin with a firm reason for suspecting wrongdoing.

Suit Claims FBI Told Mosque Informant To Get Dirt On Sex Lives, Drug Use Of Worshipers

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2011 by loonwatch

One commenter summed it up best, FBI means “Famous but Incompetent.”

Suit Claims FBI Told Mosque Informant To Get Dirt On Sex Lives, Drug Use Of Worshipers

(TPMuckracker)

The FBI allegedly told an informant who infiltrated a California mosque to dig up dirt on the immigration status, sexual activities, business problems and drug use of members of the community. A discrimination lawsuit filed against the Bureau this week charges that they hoped to use the information to convince those members to become FBI informants.

Craig Monteilh, whose aggressive tactics as an informant in 2006 led worshipers at the Islamic Center of Irvine to file a restraining order against him, is now cooperating with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that accuses FBI agents of violating the constitutional rights of hundreds of Muslims.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on behalf of three Muslim plaintiffs, claims that the FBI violated the constitutional rights of Muslims by targeting them indiscriminately because of their religion. It requests unspecified damages and a court order to return or destroy all the information that Monteilh gathered.

“The trust within the community has been broken,” Ameena Mirza Qazi, a lawyer from CAIR representing the plaintiffs told TPM in an interview. “The community feels under psychological siege at this time.”

Qazi said she hoped the lawsuit would shine a spotlight on how the FBI spies on the Muslim community. “The overall scenario is not unique to Southern California,” she said. ‘What is unique is that in this case we have confirmation of what went on, because of the informant.”

“We want a court to say that it’s wrong to target a community because of religious affiliation when there is no link to criminal activity,” she said.

The lawsuit says FBI Special Agent Kevin Armstrong and FBI Special Agent Paul Allen of talked with Monteilh about obtaining dirt on members of the Muslim community — “immigration issues, sexual activity, business problems, or crimes like drug use” — that could be used to convince them to become informants.

“Agents Armstrong and Allen instructed Monteilh to pay attention to people’s problems, to talk about and record them, including marital problems, business problems, and petty criminal issue,” the suit says.

“Agents Armstrong and Allen on several occasions talked about different individuals that they believed might be susceptible to rumors about their sexual orientation, so that they could be persuaded to become informants through the threat of such rumors being started,” the lawsuit claims.

Monteilth also “attended religion classes given in Arabic even when he did not speak Arabic, and questioned 17 and 18 year olds about religious doctrine and politics,” according to the suit.

One of the plaintiffs in the suit is a well-known Imam in the area; the other two are worshippers who were tasked with teaching Monteilh about the Islam faith.

An ex-con, Monteilh began working for the FBI in 2003. In 2006, he was asked to infiltrate the popular Islamic Center of Irvine, where he started attended prayers five times a day and donning an Islamic robe.

In May 2007, Monteilh recorded a conversation in a car with two worshipers, in which Monteilh suggested blowing up buildings. In the tape, one man agrees with Monteilh. But a few days after the conversation, the two worshipers contacted the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and reported Monteilh as a potential terrorist. Other worshippers told mosque leaders that they were scared of Monteilh and felt as though he was trying to entrap them. In June 2007, the mosque obtained a restraining order against the informant.

His relationship with the FBI deteriorated shortly afterwards and, after threatening to go public, Monteilh says he signed a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for $25,000. In December 2007, Monteilh was arrested on a grand-theft charge and went to jail for 16 months.

 

Lawsuit contends FBI violated rights of hundreds of Muslim Americans

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on February 24, 2011 by loonwatch

The ACLU and CAIR are suing the FBI.

Lawsuit contends FBI violated rights of hundreds of Muslim Americans

(LATimes)

The FBI violated the 1st Amendment rights of hundreds of Muslims by using a paid informant to target and monitor several Southern California mosques based solely on religion, according to a federal class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Filed on behalf of three Muslim plaintiffs, the suit accuses the FBI and seven of its employees, including Director Robert Mueller, of paying Irvine resident Craig Monteilh to go undercover, infiltrate mosques and record conversations in order to root out potential terrorists.

Over the course of 14 months beginning in 2006, the FBI used Monteilh to “indiscriminately collect” personal information on hundreds or even thousands of Muslim Americans, the lawsuit alleges.

Through this “dragnet” operation, the agency “gathered hundreds of phone numbers, thousands of e-mail addresses, hundreds of hours of video recordings that captured the interiors of mosques, homes and businesses, and … thousands of hours of audio recordings,” the lawsuit alleges.

Monteilh, who has served prison time for forgery, has previously told The Times that he was recruited by the FBI in 2004 to infiltrate drug-trafficking groups. In 2006, Monteilh said, he was asked to assume the identity of a Muslim convert and go undercover to identify extremists and gather intelligence.

The lawsuit comes a year after Monteilh filed suit personally against the FBI, accusing his law enforcement handlers of endangering his life and violating his civil rights. His claims of working for the FBI in some capacity were confirmed in 2009 when a West Covina judge unsealed court recordsthat showed the agency intervened in 2007 to terminate Monteilh’s parole on a theft charge early.

The FBI declined to comment on the case Tuesday night, citing ongoing legal proceedings. Spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in an e-mail, however, that the FBI does not target houses of worship or religious groups but does focus on “people who are alleged to be involved in criminal activity, regardless of their affiliations, religious or otherwise.”

ACLU lawyer Peter Bibring said members of the Muslim community grew suspicious after Monteilh habitually asked probing and invasive questions about their religious beliefs, political views, loyalties and became “increasing aggressive about denouncing U.S. foreign policy.”

“Ironically, the operation ended when members of the Muslim communities of Southern California reported the informant to the police because of his violent rhetoric and ultimately obtained a restraining order against him,” the lawsuit alleged.

Bibring dismisses the idea that the FBI may have been targeting individuals already suspected of criminal activity.

“That simply doesn’t fit with the behavior that the entire community observed,” he said. Monteilh “didn’t focus on individuals or small groups of people. He probed a wide range of people.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, class-action status and the destruction of all materials that Monteilh collected and handed over to the FBI.

 

Lawyer: FBI Illegally Interrogating Gulet Mohamed

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2011 by loonwatch

No counsel even if you ask for one. Is this what it has come to and wasn’t this supposed end with the demise of the Bush era?

Lawyer: FBI Illegally Interrogating Gulet Mohamed

(Mother Jones)

FBI agents are taking advantage of an American teenager’s detention in Kuwait to illegally harass and interrogate him without counsel, the teen’s lawyer said Wednesday. Gulet Mohamed, a Somali-born American Muslim, says he was tortured and interrogated after he was detained by Kuwaiti security officials last month. He claims that Kuwaiti interrogators asked him questions about his travels, his past, and his family that he and his lawyer believe were fed to the Kuwaitis by US officials. Kuwait now reportedly wants Mohamed deported, but he’s been added to the no-fly list. Meanwhile, FBI interrogators are continuing to interrogate him in detention and ignoring his requests to have an attorney present, his lawyer, Gadeir Abbas, says.

FBI agents’ most recent visit to Mohamed began around 10:00 a.m Kuwaiti time Wednesday, Abbas told Mother Jones. Agents, he said, questioned Mohamed for several hours, and Mohamed’s uncle (who lives in Kuwait) and brother (who traveled there after Mohamed was detained) were present for part of the time. Mohamed repeatedly told the agents that he did not want to answer questions about his travels to Somalia and Yemen without his lawyer present, according to Abbas. (Mohamed, his family, and his lawyer say the teen was visiting family and learning about the heritage of his father, whom he never knew.)

Cathy Wright, an FBI spokeswoman, said she “cannot at this point verify that a meeting took place today or an interview took place today.”

Mohamed has made similar requests for counsel during previous FBI visits, Abbas said. US law and constitutional precedent generally require that interrogations cease once a suspect asks for his lawyer. The FBI has countered that under Kuwaiti law Mohamed doesn’t have the right to counsel while being interrogated, according to Abbas. That seems to be an agency line: after I called the bureau for comment on Abbas’ allegations, Wright urged me to ask the Kuwaitis about Mohamed’s right to counsel. After I noted that US law is generally understood to restrain FBI agents (even in foreign countries) from interrogating an American after he has asked for a lawyer, Wright acknowledged that the FBI is “subject to the rules of the FBI and the rules of the [Department of Justice] for criminal prosecution,” but added that the agency didn’t “want to be perceived as commenting on [Kuwaiti] rules or laws.”

At one point during Wednesday’s interrogation, Abbas said, the FBI agents performing the interrogation stood up and started shouting and physically crowding Mohamed. They also reached for his pockets—a move that Mohamed’s brother and uncle believe was an attempt to confiscate the cell phone Mohamed has been using to communicate with the press and his lawyer. At that point, Abbas says, “a Kuwaiti official came into the room and directed the FBI agents to sit down and calm down and told them not to treat Gulet like that.”

“In the absurd world that is represented in this case, Gulet’s torturers are intervening to protect Gulet from his own government,” Abbas said. “Not only is the FBI’s behavior grossly immoral and insensitive to the plight that Gulet Mohamed has endured and is currently facing, but the FBI’s opportunistic actions to leverage Gulet’s dire situation to pepper him with senseless questioning is illegal.”

[UPDATE: Late Wednesday, Abbas sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder outlining his allegations and asking Holder to launch “an immediate investigation into the conduct of the FBI agents involved.” More on that here.]

Mohamed, his lawyer said, is a victim of “proxy detention,” where the US government asks a friendly foreign country to do the dirty work of harshly interrogating an American citizen it suspects of terrorism. Last Friday, in the wake of stories about Mohamed in theNew York Times, the Washington Post, and other major news outlets, the Obama administration finally commented on the story, via a State Department spokesman who denied that Mohamed had been detained “at the behest of the United States government” and promised that the teenager was being offered consular services.

Almost a week later, Mohamed remains in detention. He’s still on a no-fly list, and the White House won’t return calls asking for comment about his situation. It’s possible that the US government believes Mohamed is a terrorist. He recently traveled to Somalia and Yemen, two countries known for harboring Islamic extremists. The questions he says he was asked by Kuwaiti and FBI interrogators suggest that he may have been under surveillance while he was in the US. But being able to return to the United States and facing charges (if there are any) with the assistance of a lawyer are fundamental constitutional rights—rights that Mohamed is currently being denied. So what’s the reason the US claims it can’t help him? They’re desperate to protect his privacy, according to the State Department.

Agency public affairs officers have said that they cannot release information about Mohamed or reveal any suspicions the government might have about him because he has not signed a Privacy Act waiver. According to Abbas, Mohamed only recalls signing a document offered to him by US officials in late December, shortly before his family and Abbas became aware that Mohamed was being detained. The document was presented as a contact form, Abbas said. “They said you’re going to be leaving in 72 hours and we want to know who to contact, so Gulet listed his mother, his brother, and his sister,” and signed the form, not realizing that it would prevent the government from providing information about him to anyone else. Mohamed didn’t recall checking any of the yes/no boxes on a second page of the form (PDF), according to Abbas. On a privacy act waiver, those boxes determine whether or not it’s okay to contact the media, Congress, someone’s employer, and so on.

Mohamed is not the first American to be subjected to “proxy detention.” Last July, 26-year-old Yahya Wehelie, another American of Somali descent who traveled to Yemen, was finally allowed to return to the US after two months stranded abroad. He only received a no-fly list waiver to return after he had “spoken with the FBI 10 times and submitted to a polygraph test,” according to the Washington Post. Like Mohamed, Wehelie says he was visiting Yemen to learn Arabic (he was also hoping to find a bride, according to the Post). Like Mohamed, Wehelie says he was beaten while in the custody of a foreign government (Egypt, in his case) and asked questions that closely mirrored those later asked by the FBI. And like Mohamed, Wehelie has not been charged with a crime.

Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar has a good rundown of other people who have been subjected to “proxy detention,” which she calls “the Obama administration’s extraordinary rendition-lite.”

Nick Baumann covers national politics and civil liberties issues for Mother Jones’ DC Bureau. For more of his stories, click here. You can also follow him on twitter. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. Get Nick Baumann’s RSS feed.

 

FBI Issues Appeal For Help In ‘Hate Crime’ Investigation

Posted in Loon Violence, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , on December 27, 2010 by loonwatch

A woman was harassed for being Muslim and sprayed with pepper spry by her attacker. Now the FBI is looking for help in the investigation. I guess Islamophobia i all made up?

FBI Issues Appeal For Help In ‘Hate Crime’ Investigation

http://vp.mgnetwork.net/viewer.swf?u=c3956d965eca102ea6fd001ec92a4a0d&z=CMH&embed_player=1
COLUMBUS, Ohio –

The FBI has issued a more detailed description of a man who apparently sprayed a Muslim woman with a pepper spray and the public is being asked to help find him.

NBC4 first told you about this story Tuesday, after a veiled woman told police she had been sprayed with some kind of chemical by a man who came up to the driver’s side window in the parking lot of a mosque.  He yelled threatening remarks and drove off.

The FBI is asking the public if they know a white male, in his 40’s or 50’s, 5 feet 9 inches tall with a medium build.  His light colored, closed-cropped beard is coupled with a long mustache.

Authorities say his teeth are in poor condition, yellowish with several missing.  He has light-colored eyes.

The image of the vehicle he was driving was captured on surveillance video. It’s a white Jeep Cherokee from the late 80’s or early 90’s and has a roof rack and black wheels.

Anyone with information on the man or vehicle is asked to contact the FBI at 614-744-2144 or Crime Stoppers at 614-461-8477.

The woman did not suffer serious injury in the incident.

 

FBI: Stop Spying on American Muslims

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2010 by loonwatch
Craig Montielh, Wanna-be FBI Infiltrator

It is high time the FBI stop spying on American Muslims, as recent op-eds, comments from leading Muslim organizations and leaders and former intelligence officials reveal, spying is an ineffective tool that runs counter to anti-Terrorism efforts.

Instead of fostering better relations with Muslims, it creates and perpetuates an atmosphere of distrust that drives further away the number one resource –the Muslim Community– in combating terrorism and threats to our security.

Wajahat Ali writes piercingly on the topic,

Time for FBI to stop spying on American Muslims

(Guardian)

The recent arrest of the potential Christmas tree bomber is reflective of the FBI’s myopic strategy of using glitzy, expensive sting operations and dubious confidential informants to further erode Muslim American relations instead of concentrating on effective partnerships to combat radicalisation. The FBI is promoting the arrest of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a 19-year-old Somali-born teenager accused of attempting to detonate a car bomb at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, as a triumph of effective law enforcement. Instead, the operation reeks of gratuitous self-adulation, requiring 6 months of time and precious expenditures to “uncover” a dummy terrorist plot wholly scripted and concocted by the FBI in the first place.

Although many argue that this was simply entrapment, evidence does indicate that Mohamud became increasingly radicalised and voluntarily continued with the FBI’s fake terror plot. Regardless, CAIR attorney Zahra Billo told me, “The FBI seek out troubled people – nobody is arguing that some of these individuals aren’t deeply troubled – and then enable and facilitate their aspirations. It is the FBI’s job to stop operational terrorists. It is not the FBI’s job to enable aspirational terrorists.”

Attorney General Eric Holder recently suggested the use of such sting operations were “part of a forward-leaning way” in which law enforcement could proactively find those individuals committed to harming Americans, and a study revealed that 62% of terror prosecutions relied on confidential informants. But recent episodes suggest these tactics are neither “forward-looking”, nor effective. Instead, they contribute towards a deepening, polarising wedge between law enforcement officials and some of their most important assets in the war against extremism: Muslim American communities.

Recently, a former FBI confidential informant, Craig Monteilh, humorously codenamed “Oracle”, revealed he was paid $177,000 tax-free by the FBI to infiltrate and entrap a southern California Muslim community. The convicted forger, who went by “Farouk al-Aziz”, was served with a restraining order by the mosque after he repeatedly pestered attendees with absurd conversations about engaging in violent jihad. Not to be deterred, the FBI heavily relied upon Oracle’s superlative evidence, consisting of taped conversations, to indict an Afghan-American language instructor for allegedly making false statements regarding his ties to terrorists. Moreover, prosecutors alleged he was the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden’s security coordinator.

Surely, this bombshell discovery paved the way for a successful prosecution and conviction? Nearly a year and a half later, the judge agreed with the prosecutors to dismiss the case citing lack of an overseas witness and “evidentiary issues”. The result is a widening distrust of the FBI, since “the community feels betrayed,” said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic shura council of southern California, an umbrella group of more than 75 mosques.

In the deeply flawed 2005 Lodi terror case, the FBI boasted of capturing two, alleged high-level terrorists, Hamid and Umer Hyatt – Pakistani father and son immigrants, who drove ice cream trucks for a living – based on the evidence of an unreliable Pakistani-American informant, codenamed “Wildkat”. Indeed, his fact-finding lived up to his name, since he told the FBI he saw al-Qaida’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, at his Lodi, California mosque. Although the FBI [thankfully] conceded his reporting as false, they nonetheless proceeded to pay him nearly $300,000 to infiltrate the sleepy Muslim community and scour for terrorists. His taped conversations with Umer Hyatt reveal him badgering and allegedly conning Umer to make incriminating statements. Furthermore, videotapes of the Hyatts’ absurd alleged “confessions”, which former veteran FBI agent James Wedick Jr reviewed and concluded were a result of illegal questioning and coaxing, nonetheless convinced a jury to convict Hamid of providing material support to terrorists and making false statements to the FBI.

Aside from a miscarriage of justice, perhaps the most poisonous result of such belligerent law enforcement procedures, is a “chilling effect” on the Muslim American community, in which citizens legitimately feel fear and alienation from, and a deepening mistrust of, their government, as a result of such harassment. “Time and again, Muslims prove themselves to be good and smart when it comes to reporting potential crimes. The problem with this method of law enforcement is that strains the very relationships that are critical to effective community policing,” says Billo.

In a country where 60% of its citizens claim to not know a Muslim and 45% regard Islam as a religion that promotes violence, these self-aggrandising displays of “successful” prosecutions also contribute to the volatile climate of anti-Muslim bigotry and reactionary rhetoric. Recently, Glenn Beck delved into his hyperactive, paranoid imagination to produce the utterly baseless statistic that nearly 10% of Muslims are terrorists. Although many of Beck’s audience will not question the veracity of his “facts”, a comprehensive study undertaken by Duke University reveals that the number of radicalised Muslim-Americans remains very small. The study reports that “Muslim American communities have been active in preventing radicalisation… This is one reason that Muslim American terrorism has resulted in fewer than three dozen of the 136,000 murders committed in the United States since 9/11.”

Thus, a Senegalese Muslim immigrant was the first to witness and report failed jihadist Faisal Shahzad’s burning car in Times Square. A Muslim American community in Virginia went to local law enforcements and the FBI after discovering troubling videotapes left by five youths who allegedly went to Pakistan to commit jihad. A convert to Islam tipped off the FBI about the Christian militant group, the Hutarees, who were planning a terrorist attack on American soil. Even the Nigerian underwear bomber’s own father warned British authorities that his son was radicalised and could potentially harm himself and others.

Undoubtedly, radicalisation and terrorism are real threats, which afflict all US citizens, regardless of race or religion. Perhaps the FBI should now cease treating most Muslim American citizens as potential suspects, whose privacy rights and civil liberties are now curtailed in clumsy ways – such as faulty GPS tracking devices sloppily attached on their cars. Perhaps the FBI needs to spend its considerable (taxpayer-paid-for) resources to re-engage them as partners and allies – instead of contributing to the heightened climate of fear and paranoia by employing shady informants with cheesy, comic-book codenames.

 

FBI’s Entrapment Method Cause Tension and Distrust with Muslims

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2010 by loonwatch

Tension grows between Calif. Muslims, FBI after informant infiltrates mosque

By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 5, 2010; 12:47 AM

IRVINE, CALIF. – Before the sun rose, the informant donned a white Islamic robe. A tiny camera was sewn into a button, and a microphone was buried in a device attached to his keys.

“This is Farouk al-Aziz, code name Oracle,” he said into the keys as he sat in his parked car in this quiet community south of Los Angeles. “It’s November 13th, 4:30 a.m. And we’re hot.”

The undercover FBI informant – a convicted forger named Craig Monteilh – then drove off for 5 a.m. prayers at the Islamic Center of Irvine, where he says he spied on dozens of worshipers in a quest for potential terrorists.

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the FBI has used informants successfully as one of many tactics to prevent another strike in the United States. Agency officials say they are careful not to violate civil liberties and do not target Muslims.

But the FBI’s approach has come under fire from some Muslims, criticism that surfaced again late last month after agents arrested an Oregon man they said tried to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. FBI technicians had supplied the device.

In the Irvine case, Monteilh’s mission as an informant backfired. Muslims were so alarmed by his talk of violent jihad that they obtained a restraining order against him.

He had helped build a terrorism-related case against a mosque member, but that also collapsed. The Justice Department recently took the extraordinary step of dropping charges against the worshiper, who Monteilh had caught on tape agreeing to blow up buildings, law enforcement officials said. Prosecutors had portrayed the man as a dire threat.

Compounding the damage, Monteilh has gone public, revealing secret FBI methods and charging that his “handlers” trained him to entrap Muslims as he infiltrated their mosques, homes and businesses. He is now suing the FBI.

Officials declined to comment on specific details of Monteilh’s tale but confirm that he was a paid FBI informant. Court records and interviews corroborate not only that Monteilh worked for the FBI – he says he made $177,000, tax-free, in 15 months – but that he provided vital information on a number of cases.

Some Muslims in Southern California and nationally say the cascading revelations have seriously damaged their relationship with the FBI, a partnership that both sides agree is critical to preventing attacks and homegrown terrorism.

Citing Monteilh’s actions and what they call a pattern of FBI surveillance, many leading national Muslim organizations have virtually suspended contact with the bureau.

“The community feels betrayed,” said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella group of more than 75 mosques.

“They got a guy, a bona fide criminal, and obviously trained him and sent him to infiltrate mosques,” Syed said. “And when things went sour, they ditched him and he got mad. It’s like a soap opera, for God’s sake.”

FBI and Justice Department officials say that the Monteilh case is not representative of their relations with the Muslim community and that they continue to work closely with Muslims in investigating violence and other hate crimes against them. Officials also credit U.S. Muslims with reporting critical information in a variety of counterterrorism cases.

The bureau “relies on the support, cooperation and trust of the communities it serves and protects,” FBI spokesman Michael Kortan said, adding that agents conduct investigations “under well-defined investigative guidelines and the law, and in close coordination with the Department of Justice.”

Officials said they have gone to great lengths to maintain good relationships with Muslims, including meetings hosted by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Last week, FBI officials met to discuss law enforcement and other issues with predominantly Muslim Somali community members in San Diego and Minneapolis.

Steven Martinez, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, declined to comment on Monteilh, citing Monteilh’s lawsuit. He said that in certain circumstances, if there is evidence of a crime, FBI agents may “conduct an activity that might somehow involve surveillance in and about a mosque.”

But he said the agency does not target people based on religion or ethnicity.

“I know there’s a lot of suspicion that that’s the focus, that we’re looking at the mosques, monitoring who is coming and going. That’s just not the case,” he said.

The ‘chameleon’
Monteilh’s career as an informant began in 2003. Like many other informants, he was familiar with the inside of a prison cell. He had just finished a sentence for forging bank notes when local police officers he met at a gym asked him to infiltrate drug gangs and white supremacist groups for a federal-state task force.

“It was very exciting,” Monteilh said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I had the ability to be a chameleon.”

Monteilh, who stands over 6 feet tall and weighs 260 pounds, had worked as a prison chaplain before he was incarcerated. Married with three children, the Los Angeles native said that after he became an informant, an FBI agent on the task force sought him out. Law enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about informants, said Monteilh was promoted from drug and bank robbery cases because his information was reliable and had led to convictions.

In early 2006, Monteilh said, he met with his FBI handler at a Starbucks.

“She asked if I wanted to infiltrate mosques,” he said. At a follow-up session at a doughnut shop, he said, his new handler told him that “Islam is a threat to our national security.”

Law enforcement sources said that the FBI trained Monteilh and that he aided an existing investigation. Monteilh, however, said he was ordered to randomly surveil and spy on Muslims to ferret out potential terrorists. Agents, he said, provided his cover: Farouk al-Aziz, a French Syrian in search of his Islamic roots. His code name was “Oracle.”

Monteilh said he was instructed to infiltrate mosques throughout Orange and two neighboring counties in Southern California, where the Muslim population of nearly 500,000 is the nation’s largest. He was told to target the Islamic Center of Irvine, he said, because it was near his home.

FBI tactics were already a sensitive issue at the Irvine mosque, a stucco, two-story building that draws as many as 2,000 people for Friday prayers. With tensions rising between law enforcement and Muslims over allegations of FBI surveillance, J. Stephen Tidwell, then head of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, spoke at the mosque in June 2006.

“If we’re going to mosques to come to services, we will tell you,” he said, according to a video of his speech. “. . . The FBI will tell you we’re coming for the very reason that we don’t want you to think you’re being monitored. We would come only to learn.”

Two months later, in August 2006, Monteilh arrived at the same mosque. He had called earlier and met with the imam. That Friday, he took shahada, the Muslim declaration of faith, before hundreds of worshipers.

Worshipers said that in Monteilh’s 10 months at the mosque, he became almost manic in his devotion, attending prayers five times a day and waiting in the parking lot before the 5 a.m. prayer. Monteilh said he was told by the FBI to take notes on who opened the mosque each day.

Worshipers said his Western clothes gave way to an Islamic robe, a white skullcap and sandals, an outfit Monteilh said was chosen by his handlers. As he grew closer to Muslims, he said, the FBI told him to date Muslim women if it gained him intelligence.

Worshipers noticed that Monteilh often left his keys around the mosque, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who speaks often at the mosque.

“It seemed strange to people,” Ayloush said.

Inside the car remote on the bundle of keys was a microphone that recorded Muslims at the mosque, in their homes and at a local gym. Monteilh, who told people he was a fitness trainer, used the gym to seek out Muslim men.

“We started hearing that he was saying weird things,” said Omar Kurdi, a Loyola Law School student who knew Monteilh from the mosque and gym. “He would walk up to one of my friends and say, ‘It’s good that you guys are getting ready for the jihad.”

Worshipers said Monteilh gravitated to Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, an Afghan-born Arabic-language instructor who was a regular at Friday prayers.

In May 2007, Monteilh said he recorded a conversation about jihad during a car ride with Niazi and another man. Monteilh said he suggested an operation to blow up buildings and Niazi agreed. An FBI agent later cited that and other taped conversations between the two in court as evidence that Niazi was a threat.

A few days later, Ayloush got an anguished phone call from Niazi and the other man in the car.

“They said Farouk had told them he had access to weapons and that they should blow up a mall,” Ayloush recalled. “They were convinced this man was a terrorist.”

Ayloush reported the FBI’s own informant to the FBI. He said agents interviewed Niazi, who gave them the same account, but the agency took no action against Monteilh.

Still, Monteilh’s mission was collapsing. Members of the mosque told its leaders that they were afraid of Monteilh and that he was “trying to entrap them into a mission,” according to Asim Khan, the former mosque president. The mosque went to Orange County Superior Court in June 2007 and obtained a restraining order against Monteilh, court records show.

Soon afterward, Monteilh said FBI agents “told me they wanted to cut me loose.” After he vowed to go public, he said, he met with three agents at the Anaheim Hilton, where an FBI supervisor threatened him with arrest.

“She said, ‘If you reveal your informant status to the media, it will destroy the Muslim community’s relationship with the FBI forever.” Monteilh said.

The FBI declined to comment on Monteilh’s allegation.

At a subsequent meeting, Monteilh said, he signed a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for $25,000 in cash. An FBI letter to Monteilh’s attorney, on file in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, says Monteilh signed the non-disclosure agreement in October 2007.

But Monteilh was arrested in December 2007 on a grand-theft charge and ended up back in jail for 16 months. In January, he sued the FBI, alleging that the bureau and Irvine police conspired to have him arrested, then allowed his informant status to become known in prison, where he was stabbed.

The FBI and police have denied the allegations, and the lawsuit was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. But the judge allowed Monteilh to file an amended complaint, with similar allegations, in September. The case is pending.

A case unravels
In the meantime, the case against Niazi unfolded. He was indicted in February 2009 by a federal grand jury on charges of lying about his ties to terrorists on immigration documents. In court, prosecutors said that jihadist materials were found on Niazi’s computer and that he had wired money to an alleged al-Qaeda financier. Prosecutors said he is the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden’s security coordinator. Much of the evidence was FBI testimony about Niazi’s recorded conversations with an FBI informant, who sources say was Monteilh.

“Frankly, there is no amount of bail or equity in a home that can protect the citizens of this community” from Niazi, Assistant U.S. Attorney Deirdre Eliot said in arguing for his detention.

Within days of Niazi’s indictment, Monteilh revealed his informant status in a series of interviews with Los Angeles area media.

“I think the FBI treated me with the utmost treachery,” he said in the interview with The Post.

In subsequent months, Monteilh sought out Niazi’s attorneys and told them he was ordered to entrap their client.

A year and a half later, on Sept. 30, prosecutors summarily moved to dismiss the case against Niazi, and a judge agreed. The U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles cited the lack of an overseas witness and “evidentiary issues.” Sources familiar with the decision said Monteilh’s role – and his potential testimony for the defense – was also a factor.

Niazi declined to comment. His attorney Chase Scolnick said he is “very pleased with the outcome. It is a just result.”

In recent weeks, Monteilh said, he has been approaching Muslims at a local gym and apologizing for “disrespecting their community and religion.” Monteilh, who is now unemployed, says he regrets his role in the Niazi case and was glad when the charges were dropped.

On a recent Friday, more than 200 men sat on the carpet for prayers inside the Irvine mosque, most of them in khakis or jeans. During the sermon, the imam offered some advice.

“If an FBI agent comes in and says, ‘You’re under arrest,’â??” he told the crowd, they should pray to Allah – and then call a lawyer.

As worshipers milled around outside, they said they support the FBI’s role in fighting terrorism but feel betrayed by the infiltration of their sacred place.

“The FBI wants to treat the Muslim community as a partner while investigating us behind our backs,” said Kurdi, the Loyola student. “They can’t have it both ways.”

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

 

Greenwald: FBI Thwarts its Own Terrorist Plot

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2010 by loonwatch

Recently a case regarding a 19 year old Somali-American accused of attempting to blow up a Christmas event in Oregon has garnered national attention. The arrest fits a familiar pattern in which individuals are encouraged, supported and financed by the FBI to detonate bombs. Did the FBI stay within their limits when pursuing the Somali-American, or did they cross over the boundary into entrapment?

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent piece that questions this arrest and highlights for the umpteenth time the motive behind these “attacks,” a motive that is obfuscated quite often by politicians, the media and anti-Muslim activists.

These individuals aren’t, (as the Robert Spencer’s of the world proclaim) randomly convinced to blow up things because of some religious prescription/motivation, they are motivated by “occupations” and aggression against Muslims and Muslim countries! (Note to the FBI: Spencer is not going to tell you that when he is training your gumshoe detectives)

Time and time again the statements of these misguided individuals speak towards the reality that“It’s the occupation stupid!” but the Cassandra cries of Glenn Greenwald and those like him are willfully ignored and marginalized and so the fear-mongering, exploitation and violence against innocents continues unabated.

The FBI successfully thwarts its own Terrorist plot

(Salon.com)

by Glenn Greenwald

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.

What’s missing from all of these celebrations is an iota of questioning or skepticism.  All of the information about this episode — all of it — comes exclusively from an FBI affidavit filed in connection with a Criminal Complaint against Mohamud.  As shocking and upsetting as this may be to some, FBI claims are sometimes one-sided, unreliable and even untrue, especially when such claims — as here — are uncorroborated and unexamined.  That’s why we have what we call “trials” before assuming guilt or even before believing that we know what happened:  because the government doesn’t always tell the complete truth, because they often skew reality, because things often look much different once the accused is permitted to present his own facts and subject the government’s claims to scrutiny.  The FBI affidavit — as well as whatever its agents are whispering into the ears of reporters — contains only those facts the FBI chose to include, but omits the ones it chose to exclude.  And even the “facts” that are included are merely assertions at this point and thus may not be facts at all.

It may very well be that the FBI successfully and within legal limits arrested a dangerous criminal intent on carrying out a serious Terrorist plot that would have killed many innocent people, in which case they deserve praise.  Court-approved surveillance and use of undercover agents to infiltrate terrorist plots are legitimate tactics when used in accordance with the law.

But it may also just as easily be the case that the 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.

There are numerous claims here that merit further scrutiny and questioning. First, the FBI was monitoring the email communications of this American citizen on U.S. soil for months (at least) with what appears to be the flimsiest basis: namely, that he was in email communication with someone in Northwest Pakistan, “an area known to harbor terrorists” (para. 5 of the FBI Affidavit).  Is that enough to obtain court approval to eavesdrop on someone’s calls and emails?  I’m glad the FBI is only eavesdropping with court approval, if that’s true, but certainly more should be required for judicial authorization than that.  Communicating with someone in Northwest Pakistan is hardly reasonable grounds for suspicion.

Second, in order not to be found to have entrapped someone into committing a crime, law enforcement agents want to be able to prove that, in the 1992 words of the Supreme Court, the accused was “was independently predisposed to commit the crime for which he was arrested.”  To prove that, undercover agents are often careful to stress that the accused has multiple choices, and they then induce him into choosing with his own volition to commit the crime.  In this case, that was achieved by the undercover FBI agent’s allegedly advising Mohamud that there were at least five ways he could serve the cause of Islam (including by praying, studying engineering, raising funds to send overseas, or becoming “operational”), and Mohamud replied he wanted to “be operational” by using exploding a bomb (para. 35-37).

But strangely, while all other conversations with Mohamud which the FBI summarizes were (according to the affidavit) recorded by numerous recording devices, this conversation — the crucial one for negating Mohamud’s entrapment defense — was not.  That’s because, according to the FBI, the undercover agent ”was equipped with audio equipment to record the meeting.  However, due to technical problems, the meeting was not recorded“ (para. 37).

Thus, we have only the FBI’s word, and only its version, for what was said during this crucial — potentially dispositive — conversation.  Also strangely: the original New York Times article on this story described this conversation at some length and reported the fact that “that meeting was not recorded due to a technical difficulty,” but the final version omitted that, instead simply repeating the FBI’s story as though it were fact:  ”undercover agents in Mr. Mohamud’s case offered him several nonfatal ways to serve his cause, including mere prayer. But he told the agents he wanted to be ‘operational,’ and perhaps execute a car bombing.”

Third, there are ample facts that call into question whether Mohamud’s actions were driven by the FBI’s manipulation and pressure rather than his own predisposition to commit a crime.  In June, he attempted to fly to Alaska in order to work on a fishing job he obtained through a friend, but he was on the Government’s no-fly list.  That caused the FBI to question him at the airport and then bar him from flying to Alaska, and thus prevented him from earning income with this job (para. 25).  Having prevented him from working, the money the FBI then pumped him with — including almost $3,000 in cash for him to rent his own apartment (para. 61) — surely helped make him receptive to their suggestions and influence.  And every other step taken to perpetrate this plot — from planning its placement to assembling the materials to constructing the bomb — was all done at the FBI’s behest and with its indispensable support and direction.

It’s impossible to conceive of Mohamud having achieved anything on his own.  Before being ensnared by the FBI, the only tangible action he had taken was to write three articles on “fitness and jihad” for the online magazine Jihad Recollections.  At least based on what is known, he had no history of violence, no apparent criminal record, had never been to a training camp in Afghanistan, Pakistan or anywhere else, and — before meeting the FBI — had never taken a single step toward harming anyone.  Does that sound like some menacing sleeper Terrorist to you?

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.

UPDATE:  A very similar thing happened last month when the FBI announced that it had arrested someone who was planning to bomb the DC Metro system when, in reality, “the only plotting he did was in response to instructions from federal agents he thought were accomplices.”  That concocted FBI plot then led to the Metro Police announcing a new policy of random searches of passengers’ bags.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, the mosque sometimes attended by Mohamud wasvictimized today by arson.  So the FBI did not stop any actual Terrorist plots, but they may have helped inspire one.

 

The Hazards of Driving While Muslim: FBI GPS Tracking Devices

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , on October 10, 2010 by loonwatch

A case of driving while Muslim?

Muslim Student Finds FBI’s GPS Device on His Car

By Jesse Emspak

A California college student took his car into the shop and found a strange device stuck to the underside of the car. Worried about what it might be, he posted pictures of it on the Internet.

The FBI came calling, and told the student, Yasir Afifi, they were following him. They also asked for their tracking device back. The agency has yet to say exactly why they were tracking Afifi, who had posted pictures of the device on Reddit.com.

Zahra Billoo, an attorney at the San Francisco chapter of the Council on American Islamic relations, said the group is deciding whether any legal action can be taken on Afifi’s behalf. She said CAIR is aware of two similar cases in Ohio.

Attaching a tracking device to a car was found to be legal in August by the U.S. Court of Appeals in the 9th Circuit, on the theory that a parked car has no expectation of privacy, even if it is in the driveway of a private residence. The D.C. Circuit came to a different conclusion in a similar case, which means there is a real possibility that use of GPS technologies will be before the Supreme Court in the future.

Several news outlets reported Afifi knows he is on a Federal watchlist. He has two brothers in Egypt, and lived there for five years. His father, Aladdin Afifi, was head of the Muslim Community Association in California. Billoo noted that it runs one of the largest Mosques in the state and has done so for many years. Aladdin Afifi died in 2009. There is no evidence that Afifi is connected to any radical groups.

The device itself is manufactured by Cobham plc, a U.K. based maker of military technologies such as avionics. Some 60% of the company’s revenue comes from the U.S. and 77% is from the defense industry. The model of GPS tracking device used on Afifi”s car appears to send a signal over the cellular network to a central server, though Cobham would not confirm this.