CAIR Questions FBI Tactics in NY Synagogue ‘Plot’
A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today questioned the FBI’s tactics leading up to the arrest of four New York men for allegedly plotting to attack Jewish institutions in that state.
Based on early reports of a foiled plot to bomb a synagogue and a Jewish community center and to shoot down military planes, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) initially applauded the FBI and the other law enforcement agencies that took part in the investigation.
In a statement issued today, CAIR cited newly-revealed details of the case that indicate the alleged “plot” may have been based more on the financial inducements of a government informant than on the predisposition to terrorism of three petty criminals and a mentally ill Haitian immigrant. The Associated Press described the alleged plotters as “down-and-out ex-convicts living on the margins in a faded industrial city.”
“This entire scheme seems to be the product of sending yet another FBI agent provocateur into an American mosque to instigate a ‘plot’ that would likely never have been hatched but for the rhetorical and financial inducements of the government informant. As a defense attorney said of the informant in this case, who was also the informant in a previous case, ‘Where he goes conspiracies blossom.’ According to the family of one of the suspects, the FBI informant even promised to pay for a liver transplant for his dying brother.
“We need to know who first suggested the specific targets in this plot and, if it was the FBI informant, why a government agency would create a scenario that may drive a wedge between two American religious minorities.
“These arrests seem to be based on a government formula for announcing law enforcement ‘victories’ that we have seen all too often in the past – take a paid informant, insert him into a mosque or community without probable cause of criminal behavior, locate marginal characters open to financial or rhetorical inducements, facilitate criminal actions suggested by the provocateur, and then announce ‘terror’ arrests with great fanfare.
“This formula, which could be used in any faith community, produces flashy arrests but rests on shaky constitutional ground and does little to advance legitimate law enforcement goals. It also serves to alienate an entire religious minority and provides fodder for those who seek to demonize Islam and marginalize American Muslims.”
CAIR’s statement reiterated the American Muslim community’s longstanding repudiation of terrorism in all its forms and encouraged anyone who is aware of criminal activity to immediately contact law enforcement authorities.
The statement also restated CAIR’s concerns about Justice Department guidelines, implemented under the Bush administration, which allow race and ethnicity to be factors in opening an FBI probe.
In an interview with the New York Post, the girlfriend of the alleged ringleader said the informant was constantly around, “It was like he was stalking him.” The girlfriend of one of the other alleged plotters said: “They aren’t radicals they were just financially motivated. They aren’t terrorists. If [the informant] wasn’t in the picture they would’ve never come up with this idea. This was not their idea. They make it sound like they sought him out and said we want to do this when he’s the one who approached them. He enticed them with money.”
The New York Times wrote: “Everyone called the stranger with all the money ‘Maqsood.’ He would sit in his Mercedes, waiting in the parking lot of the mosque in Newburgh, N.Y., until the Friday prayer was over. Then, according to members of the mosque, the Masjid al-Ikhlas, he approached the young men.”
A lawyer who represented the last terror suspect tried in New York state called the FBI’s operation “a foolish waste of time and money.” He said, “It is almost as if the FBI cooked up the plot and found four idiots to install as defendants.”
In March, a coalition of major national Islamic organizations announced that it is considering suspending outreach relations with the FBI, citing similar incidents in which American mosques and Muslim groups have been targeted. The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT) also called on the FBI to reassess the use of informants as agents provocateurs within the Muslim community.
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.