Shahawar Matin Siraj, Newburgh 4 and the Fort Dix 5: All Lured Into Terror Plot by Overzealous FBI Informants, New Report Claims
A new report out of the NYU Law School slams the feds and the NYPD for conduct in three recent terrorism cases, saying that the government should end the practice of sending "paid informants into Muslim communities or families without any particularized suspicion of criminal activity."
The report, called "Targeted and Entrapped," was compiled by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice and the International Human Rights Clinic at the NYU School of Law.
In the case of the Newburgh 4, as the Voice has reported, the paid FBI informant, Shahed Hussain, spent months trolling for someone interested in terror, and finally found ex-con, pot smoker, and video game player James Cromitie who haltingly over eight months went along with a plot that was largely devised and pushed forward by the government. Cromitie and three other men were convicted last fall, and face up to life in prison.
In the so-called Fort Dix Five case, the FBI used two informants to infiltrate a family of Albanian Muslims in New Jersey. Notably, the probe began when a clerk overheard them saying, "Allahu Akbar." There again, the informants initiated the talk of terrorism, and drove the targets to visit Fort Dix and then brought a list of weapons to them. All five defendants were convicted.
And in the case involving Shahawar Matin Siraj, an NYPD informant named Osama Eldawoody made 575 visits to city Mosque and filed 350 reports as he trolled the community for potential terrorists. Eladwoody, the report claims, also pushed Siraj toward involvement in a terror plot. Siraj also convicted.
In all, the report claims that 200 people have been prosecution via the same tactic. "Each case raises serious questions about both the government's role and the set of laws being used to facilitate these practices," the report says.
"Counterterrorism law-enforcement policies and practices are undermining U.S. human
rights obligations to guarantee the rights to nondiscrimination; a fair trial; freedom of
religion expression and opinion; as well as the right to an effective remedy when rights
violations take place," the report declares.
The authors of the report call for Congressional hearings, a Justice Department investigation, a law that ends "racial profiling," ban the practice of trolling for suspects without any initial indication of wrongdoing. The report also calls on the NYPD to "revise its guidelines to only allow for investigations when there is an articulable and reasonable suspicion of criminal activity."
The report is particularly critical of guidelines set down by then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey in 2008, which it says allows the FBI to greenlight informants and surveillance without any facts to suggest criminal conduct. Under those guidelines, the report says, the FBI can gather lists of names, emails and phone numbers from Mosque members without evidence of criminal activity.
The report also takes a shot at a NYPD report from 2007, titled "Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat."
"Though the theories underlying the report have been criticized as "thinly sourced" and 'reductionist,' they continue to enjoy support at the highest levels of government," the report says. "No empirical, social scientific research supports the notion of a 'religious conveyer belt' that predictably leads to terrorism."
The report says that under revised guidelines, the NYPD is now allowed to open investigations on people based only on things they have said, which is supposed to be protected by the First Amendment.