Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn charged a 21-year-old Bangladeshi man named Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis for attempting on Wednesday to to blow up the Federal Reserve building with what he believed was a 1,000 pound bomb.
But, the NY Times reports:
[T]he entire plot played out under the surveillance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department as part of an elaborate sting operation, according to court papers.
The case is just the latest in a string of New York City terrorism cases that involve the use of informants and concocted plots. In each case, federal agents or NYPD officers connect with young Muslim men who the agents aid in imagining, planning and orchestrating attacks. The agents then arrest the targets for conspiring to commit acts of terrorism.
The New York and Federal officals claim they’re nabbing people who pose a real threat, but there’s little evidence that these plots could ever succeed without the help of police and the FBI.
In the past decade, at least 200 domestic anti-terrorism cases have used paid informants, according to the Center on Law and Security at NYU. Ninety-seven percent of those investigations have resulted in convictions despite serious questions about the policing tactics.
The Times reports:
The undercover agent began meeting with Mr. Nafis in July, first in Central Park and later in hotels in Queens, secretly recording Mr. Nafis’s statements. Mr. Nafis had grand but vague plans, according to the indictment. “I don’t want something that’s like, small. I just want something big,” he said, according to the complaint. “Very, very, very, very big, that will shake the whole country.”
He settled on the financial district as a target, hoping to shake the American economy. The original plan was for a suicide mission but that changed when Mr. Nafis said he wanted to go home to Bangladesh first to put his affairs in order. The undercover agent told Mr. Nafis that he could use a remote-control device, so that he could stage the attack and then return to Bangladesh.
On Wednesday morning, they drove to a warehouse and assembled the fake bomb, placing supposedly explosive material in trash bins they had bought, then putting the bins in a van, according to the complaint.
After he tried, and failed, to detonate the fake bomb with a cell phone, the agent acting as his collaborator arrested Mr. Nafiz.
Civil rights and civil liberties groups have repeatedly criticized these tactics, arguing that they amount to little more than entrapment. Mr. Nafiz could be sentenced to life in prison for the charges, which include conspiring use weapons of mass destruction and material support to Al Qaeda.