A week after Faisal Shahzad was sentenced to life in prison for attempting to explode a bomb in Times Square, new reports find that the federal government is in vigorous pursuit of more domestic terrorists. But in search of “homegrown” threats, the federal government is repeatedly throwing civil liberties to the wind, employing questionable surveillance techniques, and in some cases entrapping innocent people.
Since 9-11, there have been over 1,000 terror-related prosecutions. According to a new report by Democracy Now!, many are based on the use of informants.
An extensive investigation, Anjali Kamat reports that the FBI has repeatedly used secret informants to gather questionable information and even entrap groups of people into supporting acts of terrorism. These informants are often Muslim men found guilty of non-terrorism related crimes and who face deportation or jail time.
In numerous cases, documented at length by the DN investigation, there are serious questions as to whether the tactic is creating crimes out of thin air. In one case, an FBI informant befriended a Muslim business owner. When that business started failing, the informant, who was himself facing deportation, offered the other man a loan that was allegedly laundered for weapons buying. The exchange led to terrorism convictions.
Karen Greenberg of the NYU Center for Law and Security explains, “the conviction rate for cases that involve informants is almost 100 percent.” But according to James Wedick, a former FBI agent, “90 percent of the cases that you see that have occurred in the last 10 years are garbage.”
Wedick also says that economic strains are often the way that informants entrap others. In Newburgh, NY, an FBI informant allegedly entrapped four black Muslim men from a poor neighborhood, pushing them to participate in an attempted attack on a synagogue in the area.
The government argues that the Newburgh men’s participation in the fake plot proves that they were predisposed to terrorism. But the defense argues that the men would never have committed any act of violence were it not for the FBI’s fabrication of a plot and that they were the targets of a concerted campaign of entrapment.
“The line between uncovering terrorist plots and creating them has become increasingly blurry,” writes Kamat.
Questionable surveillance techniques go beyond the use of informants. In California,Yasir Afifi, a 20-year-old US-born college student, recently discovered a tracking devise under his car. Two days later, the young man encountered six FBI agents at his door. They told him they wanted the devise back. Afifi cooperated though one of the young man’s friends told Wired Magazine, “My plan was to just put the device on another car or in a lake but when you come home to 2 stoned off-their-asses people who are hearing things in the device and convinced it’s a bomb you just gotta be sure.”
According to Afifi, when the FBI agents came to collect the devise one of them said, “We have all the information we needed,” they told him. “You don’t need to call your lawyer. Don’t worry, you’re boring.”
It appears the governments search for terrorists may be creating them, or confusing stoners for criminals.