Last Wednesday, a 21-year-old Bangladeshi national, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, was arrested and accused of traveling to the U.S. to establish an al Qaeda cell and bomb the Federal Reserve Bank in Lower Manhattan.
Buried beneath the headlines and opening paragraphs of the major news outlet reports, however, is the fact that Nafis would have been unable to execute his plot without substantial assistance from the F.B.I.. Authorities assured several news agencies that “the public was never in danger.”
This case is yet another instance, among hundreds, of federal agencies creating terrorist plots so they can take credit for stopping them, instill fear in Americans and justify the billions of taxpayer dollars spent on wars and “homeland security.” This practice earned the number four rank on the list of the 2012 Project Censored most underreported stories in the U.S. media.
Last year, Trevor Aronson, with the aid of the Investigative Reporting Program at University of California-Berkley, completed a yearlong investigation of every case of terrorism that the Department of Justice (D.O.J.) prosecuted since 9/11 that was published in Mother Jones monthly. Out of 508 defendants at the time, 248 were targeted via an informant, 158 were nabbed via a sting operation, and 49 were lured via an informant who led the plot. Only three cases did not involve an informant and/or a F.B.I. sting operation. In 53 percent of the cases, the charges the defendants were convicted of did not involve terrorism. (See slideshow).
One former high-level F.B.I. official speaking to Mother Jones said that, for every informant officially employed by the bureau, up to three unofficial agents are working undercover. There are upwards of 15,000 undercover agents today, ten times what the F.B.I. had on the roster back in 1975, earning as much as $100,000 per assignment.
According to the New York Times, “both F.B.I. leaders and federal prosecutors have defended the approach as valuable in finding and stopping people predisposed to commit terrorism.” There are doubts, however, as to whether these individuals would have had the will or capability to act on their own without being led along by F.B.I. informants.
While this practice is legal under legislation passed since 9/11, its legitimacy is questionable. In many cases it is borderline entrapment under the strict legal definition, but defense attorneys have had difficulty making that argument because important meetings between informants and the unknowing participants are left purposely unrecorded in order to avoid any entrapment charges that could cause the case to be dismissed.
At issue is the word “entrapment”, which has two definitions. There is the common usage, where a citizen might see F.B.I. operations as deliberate traps manipulating unwary people who otherwise were unlikely to become terrorists. Then there is the legal definition of entrapment, where the prosecution merely has to show a subject was predisposed to carry out the actions they later are accused of.
In the most recent case of the Federal Reserve bomb plot, Nafis was charged with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and providing material support to al Qaeda. According to the criminal complaint, he initially spoke of a desire to kill a “high-ranking government official” and tried to make contacts in order to recruit a terrorist cell. A senior law enforcement official told the New York Times that the official was President Obama, but that Nafis’s desire never got past the talking stage. F.B.I. agents posing as al Qaeda contacts provided him with encouragement and guidance, redirecting him to the bombing idea and providing him with the material means to carry out the plot.
This case reveals several issues. Firstly, Nafis was never in contact with any real terrorists. If terrorists are scattered all about the country in cells, why was he unable to contact a single one of them? Secondly, he was never able to procure any real explosives. Thirdly, if he came in contact with F.B.I. agents, that means he was blindly recruiting anyone for his “terrorist cell.” He even asked a contact over Facebook, an F.B.I. informant, if it was permissible to blow up a country that granted him a student visa. What real terrorist would be naïve enough to do that?
This case makes Nafis sound more like a loner with wild ideas that was led along by the F.B.I. rather than a real terrorist. It also sounds like hundreds of other cases. In fact, some of the most highly publicized “terrorist plots” since 9/11 were “thwarted” under similar circumstances.
In 2009, several men, urged by an unusually persistent government informer, planted what they believed to be homemade bombs in front of synagogues in NYC. Four men were convicted, but the judge who oversaw the trial also criticized the law enforcement agents who helped push the plot forward: “The government made them terrorists.”
In the case of the infamous underwear bomber on Christmas Day 2009, a Detroit lawyer, Kurt Haskell, was on the plane and called as a witness in the trial of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Haskell maintains that Abdulmutallab was carrying a fake bomb and was the unwitting dupe in a case of government entrapment. Haskell also witnessed a well-dressed man help Abdulmutallab clear security before the incident, despite the fact that the bomber had no passport and that U.S. intelligence officials were warned by his own father of the threat posed by him a month before the attempted attack.
In the case of the Cleveland bridge bombers last May, the plot was hatched at an Occupy Cleveland protest last October by an F.B.I. informant who persuaded the defendants to blow up a large bridge. He led them to another F.B.I. agent posing as a merchant who charged them $450 for a fake bomb.
One of the Cleveland arrestees, Connor Stevens, complained to his sister of feeling “very pressured” by the guy who turned out to be an informant and was recorded in 2011 rejecting property destruction: “We’re in it for the long haul and those kind of tactics just don’t cut it,” he said. “And it’s actually harder to be non-violent than it is to do stuff like that.”
The case of the Fort Dix Five, accused of plotting to attack a New Jersey army base, also involved dubious use of paid informants, an apparent over-reach of evidence and a plot that seemed suggested by the government.
Burim Duka, whose three brothers were jailed for life for their part in the scheme, insists they did not know they were part of a terror plot and were just buying guns for shooting holidays in a deal arranged by a friend. The “friend” was an informant who had persuaded another man of a desire to attack Fort Dix.
These are just five of the more high profile cases out of hundreds of others in which a seemingly dangerous terrorist plot is thwarted, only to have the facts later reveal that the “terrorists” could not terrorize a fly without the tutelage and material aid of federal law enforcement agencies and informants.
These cases make it clear that the U.S. government is creating terrorism in order to be perceived as thwarting it and scaring the American people into believing there are real terrorists in our country. The motive behind that may be to justify legislation that infringes on civil liberties, huge expenditures on homeland security such as the Transportation Security Administration, surveillance conducted by fusion centers and wars that generate profit for the military-industrial complex. Of course, the most recent case will enable the Federal Reserve to claim it is a terrorist target and request additional security.
Federal law enforcement agencies seem to take an affirmative role in staging the crimes at mosques or, as in the case of the Cleveland bridge bombers, at an occupy protest. When the D.O.J. prosecutes cases like these, it leaves more clear-and-present dangers, such as criminals like the Foot Hood shooter, the Arizona shooter who shot a congresswoman, the Colorado movie theatre shooter or the Sikh temple shooter in Wisconsin, relatively unbothered and discovered only after people are killed.
Perhaps the government is singling out ideological enemies, not real terrorism or crime. The American people simply have no legitimate reason to believe anything that the corporate media or government claims, especially when it has to do with terrorism which has historically been used to further restrict the freedoms of everyday Americans nationwide. That is consistent with several of the 14 defining characteristics of fascism that have become apparent in the U.S. in 2012.
Update: Today a gunman shot seven people in a Milwaukee-area mall, three of whom died. He then took his own life. Yet another example that the F.B.I. is not stopping those that are really “predisposed to commit terrorism.”
Mother Jones – Profiles in Terror (interactive database)