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    Default The FBI Is Not Your Friend

    The FBI Is Not Your Friend

    There's nothing to celebrate about the FBI — it isn't, nor has it ever been, a guardian of democracy.

    Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI director James Comey is an alarming, if characteristically incompetent, move by a president who seems to view even the smallest challenge to his power as unacceptable. At best, it’s an attempt to punish someone Trump sees as insufficiently loyal. At worst, it’s a clumsy and self-defeating attempt to cover up a crime.

    Given the circumstances, it may be tempting to treat Comey as a saint, and his Bureau as some kind of exalted institution beyond time, space, and politics. Jimmy Kimmel has already printed shirts reading “James Comey is my Homey,” while John McCain has called him “arguably the most respected person in America.” Columnists, politicians, and others have lauded the FBI for its supposed neutrality, independence, and non-political nature. Comey himself, in his farewell letter, described the FBI as a “rock for America” and a “rock of competence, honesty, and independence.”

    To be sure, the FBI has done some praiseworthy work. It’s investigated white supremacist infiltration of police departments. It’s arrested right-wing terrorists bent on attacking minorities. And even in its worst days, under J. Edgar Hoover, it took on the KKK and investigated the murders of civil rights activists in the South.

    It’s also true that Comey seemed genuinely interested in making himself and the Bureau neutral arbiters above partisan concerns. His inability to navigate the general election minefield wasn’t for lack of trying.

    But we shouldn’t allow any of this to cloud our vision: the FBI has a long history as an intensely political organization, often undermining the very values it claims to stand for — and Comey’s leadership didn’t change that.

    Comey's FBI

    Part of the reason for Comey’s reputation as an independent straight shooter, even hero, is his time at the Justice Department during the Bush administration.

    Acting as deputy attorney general, Comey refused to extend Bush’s illegal warrantless domestic spying program and raced to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital room to prevent Alberto Gonzales from getting a barely moving Ashcroft to sign onto it over Comey’s head. While admirable, it’s helped contribute to a gilded image of Comey that was only dented by his actions during the election.

    After his ascension to FBI director in 2013, Comey spent months trying to force Apple to undermine its own encryption so that the FBI — and potentially numerous other law enforcement agencies — could access the content in people’s phones. Although this started with the San Bernardino shooters, it was part of a long-planned campaign to create a civil-liberties-shredding precedent. For years Comey fearmongered about the dangers of encryption, claiming that law enforcement was “going dark” because of it, warning that it “threatens to lead us all to a very, very dark place,” and cautioning that he didn’t know how much longer the FBI could thwart ISIS plots while such privacy protections existed.

    Comey, like many in the intelligence community, wanted to prosecute WikiLeaks and Julian Assange under the Espionage Act, arguing that their actions were simply “intelligence porn” and distinct from “legitimate” journalists who publish information to educate the public. Assange and WikiLeaks’ shortcomings notwithstanding, this is a dangerous line to take. As Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center has pointed out, it creates a line between “good” and “bad” journalists, the arbiter of which is the Justice Department.

    Comey was also a high-profile booster of the “Ferguson effect” or as he called it, the “viral video effect.” He claimed that a spike in murders in 2016 was due to the greater scrutiny police had come under in the wake of shooting scandals, leading officers to shy away from necessary police work lest they end up on YouTube. By his own admission, this wasn’t based on any statistics, but on what some law enforcement officials had told him. Yet an FBI report released two weeks ago, while Comey was still FBI chief, persisted with this narrative, faulting the media and Black Lives Matter for the increase in police killings last year.

    The Bureau engaged in still more unseemly activities with Comey at the helm. It surveyed and videotaped various Black Lives Matter protests from the sky and tracked a Black Lives Matter protest in Minnesota in December 2014. It sent agents from its Joint Terrorism Task Force to investigate Standing Rock protesters and paid a visit to left-wing activists in Cleveland prior to the Republican National Convention, which those on the receiving end perceived as an intimidation attempt. It launched a community initiative aimed at preventing “radicalization” that morphed into an intelligence gathering program on Muslims, and, most recently, carried out a nationwide sweep of Muslims in the lead-up to Trump’s election.

    The agency’s relationship with Muslims has been no better internally. Muslims in the FBI report a pervasive anti-Islam culture, with one analyst losing his job after a Kafkaesque process where he came under suspicion for following his training and refusing to out himself as an FBI agent at a French airport. And Comey, refusing to bow to critics, maintained the FBI’s policy of continuously scrutinizing foreign born agents.

    Yet despite the pervasive anti-Muslim bias, despite the attacks on activists, despite the “Ferguson effect” histrionics, Comey’s tenure was actually tame compared to previous decades. A quick look at the FBI’s history reveals an agency that, far from being a “rock” of honesty and independence, has often gone even further than it did under Comey in trying to stamp out dissent.

    Appetite for Order

    The FBI’s obsession with order is ingrained in its DNA.

    Before the agency’s formation, the Justice Department employed the Pinkerton detective agency to infiltrate, sabotage, and suppress labor activity and generally protect private businesses from the threat posed by calls for fair wages, eight-hour days, and safety standards. The Pinkertons’ work became increasingly violent, with agents shooting protesters and participating in the brutal vigilante murders of labor organizers like Frank Little.

    Little wasn’t an outlier: indeed, it was Robert Pinkerton, agency founder Allan Pinkerton’s son, who suggested that radicals “should all be marked and kept under constant surveillance” following the assassination of President William McKinley.

    The FBI took much from the Pinkertons, including its identification methods (fingerprinting) and its centralized national criminal identification database. It also inherited the Pinkertons’ anti-radical bent.

    Theodore Roosevelt’s initial attempt to form a national police force under the Justice Department had actually been blocked by Congress, out of a concern that it would be a tsarist-style “secret police force” used to spy on Americans. Congressmen warned of a “system of espionage” and a “central police or spy system in the federal government” that would undermine civil liberties. Roosevelt’s attorney general, Charles Bonaparte, assured Congress that “nothing is more injurious in that line and nothing more open to abuse than the employment of men of that type.”

    But Roosevelt and Bonaparte set up the Bureau anyway in June 1908, a month after Congress adjourned.

    Initially, the Bureau did focus on relatively mundane interstate crimes. Within a year of its creation, though, the Bureau’s chief directed a special agent to use an informant in a socialist organization to gather more information about a particular socialist figure.

    The advent of World War I pushed the repression to new heights. With all levels of the Justice Department mobilized to root out disloyalty, radicalism, and anything else viewed as counter to the war effort, the Bureau was soon going after draft-dodgers, foreigners, pro-German and pro-Irish activists, labor unions, various political radicals, and anyone else who could be construed as “disloyal.” It rounded up people in mass arrests, opened mail, and wiretapped phones (but failed to find any spies).

    During this time, the Bureau also teamed up with the American Protective League, a group of vigilante thugs set up by a Chicago advertising executive and funded by various corporations. The APL spied on people (usually recent immigrants), sought out draft-evaders, busted unions, carried out break-ins, and beat up workers. They did all this while wearing badges declaring themselves an “auxiliary to the US Department of Justice.”

    Aided by the APL — and cheered on by the New York Times — the Bureau carried out a twenty-four-city raid on IWW headquarters on September 17, 1917. They kicked down the IWW’s office doors, pilfered its documents, and in the subsequent mass trials, secured the convictions of 165 union leaders under the Espionage Act. Some received jail sentences of as long as twenty years.

    A year later, they teamed up again for the “slacker raids,” arresting between fifty thousand and sixty-five thousand men across New York and New Jersey, the vast majority of whom weren’t even deserters or draft-dodgers. (The ensuing controversy prompted the dismissals of the attorney general and the Bureau’s chief, but the FBI as an institution survived unscathed.)

    While the war ended in 1919, the Bureau’s political repression continued. It was front and center for the first Red Scare in the early 1920s, which was set off by a combination of labor unrest (including a general strike in Seattle) and a series of thirty-six bombings that targeted congressmen, mayors, judges, the secretary of labor, and the attorney general, A. Mitchell Palmer.

    The hysteria culminated in the 1920 Palmer Raids, overseen by a young J. Edgar Hoover, head of the Bureau’s General Intelligence Division. Hoover pored over the information gathered by the Bureau to determine who was most likely responsible for the bombings. The raids resulted in the arrest of six thousand people across thirty-three cities. More than one thousand of those were immigrants, hundreds of whom were deported (then–Secretary of Labor Lois Post reversed most of the original deportation orders). Those arrested, of course, had nothing to do with the bombing — their only crimes were things like opposing the war, agitating for better working conditions, and speaking with a foreign accent.

    The Palmer Raids were so aggressive that they ended up turning opinion against the government’s actions. Palmer, who had initiated the raids partly out of his desperation to be president, tarnished his public standing — particularly when he predicted a revolution on May 1, 1920 that never ended up happening. (He had been informed by Hoover and the Bureau that it was indeed in the cards.)

    “The ‘Palmer Raids’ were certainly not a bright spot for the young Bureau,” the FBI’s website now reads, in one of history’s great understatements. “But it did gain valuable experience in terrorism investigations and intelligence work and learn important lessons about the need to protect civil liberties and constitutional rights.”

    The lessons the FBI learned are unclear. Its appetite for order certainly hadn’t been satiated by the Palmer Raids.

    Fearful of unrest among black Americans, it began spying on and harassing African-American newspapers and civil rights groups like the NAACP. It was particularly worried about black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey, whose Universal Negro Improvement Association had 2 million members. Garvey was “one of the most prominent negro agitators in New York” according to Hoover. “Unfortunately,” he wrote in 1919, “he has not as yet violated any federal law whereby he could be proceeded against on the grounds of being an undesirable alien, from the point of view of deportation.”

    The Bureau was so determined to take down Garvey, it did the unthinkable — it hired its first black agent, to infiltrate Garvey’s organization and get close to him. “[The Bureau] feared the hundreds of thousands, the masses of blacks under his influence,” writes historian Thomas Kornweibel. It ended up finally nailing Garvey on mail fraud and winning his deportation.

    The Bureau also spied on Jane Addams, a progressive social worker and the leader of the Women’s International League for Freedom, an antiwar group. The League and its affiliates would continue to be monitored until at least 1942.

    During the Teapot Dome scandal of 1923–24, the FBI reached its tentacles into the US Senate. Attorney General Harry Daugherty instructed FBI director William Burns to send Bureau agents to dig up damaging information about the two Montana senators spearheading the corruption investigation. Agents tapped the senators’ phones, read their mail, broke into their offices and homes, and at one point even tried to manufacture a compromising situation with one of the senators and a woman. The information Bureau agents obtained was then used to pursue, unsuccessfully, an indictment of one of the senators (at which point the whole scheme unravelled and Daugherty and Burns were dismissed).

    All of this occurred within the Bureau’s first sixteen years — and before Hoover had even become the director.

    Bad Old Days?

    Hoover’s accession to the director’s seat marked the start of the FBI’s most notorious period, when the Bureau — backed up by the voluminous files Hoover kept on political friends and enemies alike — became a virtual second government unto itself.

    The Bureau continued to keep tabs on anyone it considered outside the political mainstream: peace activists, civil rights groups like the NAACP, labor organizers, “suspicious minorities,” and the Left more generally. Hoover surveilled potential subversives, then handed information over to congressmen investigating “communist infiltration.” The Bureau kept an eye on folk singers for more than twenty years, including Pete Seeger, who it became particularly interested in after a line in one of his songs declared: “The FBI is worried. The bosses there are scared.” It also rifled through Albert Einstein’s trash and surveilled him until his death in 1955, spooked by such red flags as his pacifism, antiracism, and support for Spanish antifascism.

    During this era, the Bureau again ventured outside the world of the Left and began investigating officeholders. Ordered by President Roosevelt to start surveilling potential subversives linked to the Soviets and Nazis, Hoover went further and began spying on those who crossed Roosevelt on foreign policy: Charles Lindbergh, the isolationist America First Committee, and four congressmen. It wasn’t the last time the FBI would be mobilized against a president’s political enemies: Lyndon Johnson had the FBI bug both Barry Goldwater’s and Richard Nixon’s planes in 1964 and 1968, respectively.

    In 1956, the FBI launched the embodiment of its Bad Old Days: COINTELPRO, a set of programs that for decades essentially existed to destroy groups on the broad left, from socialist and communist groups to civil rights activists to the Black Panthers. Here were some of COINTELPRO’s greatest hits:

    * Launching a campaign of anonymous letters that led one leader of the Puerto Rican independence movement to have a heart attack, which the Bureau celebrated.

    * Attempting to incite violence against the Communist Party and the Black Panthers.

    * Planting false gossip about the actress Jean Seberg, who had donated to the Black Panthers, which pushed her into a suicidal spiral that took her life in 1979.

    * Attempting to blackmail Martin Luther King into committing suicide.

    * Facilitating the Chicago police’s assassination of Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Chicago Black Panther Party.

    * Paying provocateurs to infiltrate student protesters and plan and advocate bombings and murders, right down to providing the students weapons, training, and equipment to carry out the attacks.

    * Hobbling the American Indian Movement in the 1960s and 1970s through a barrage of baseless criminal accusations.

    When such activities were exposed by the Church Committee in the 1970s, it scandalized the public. But the Bureau was unrepentant. As Hoover’s successor told Congress in 1971: “For the FBI to have done less under the circumstances would have been an abdication of its responsibilities to the American people.”

    By Any Other Name

    According to the conventional narrative, the FBI cleaned up its act once Hoover died and the Church Committee exposed its excesses. But the FBI has never entirely abandoned its original mission: to root out and surveil those whose political opinions veer from the Bureau’s own narrow orthodoxy.

    You might know Edward Said as the man who coined the concept of “Orientalism.” For the Bureau, Said’s work with Palestinian organizations meant he was a security threat who needed to be spied on for three decades. It was neither the first or last time the Bureau would target pro-Palestinian activists.

    Other organizations the FBI saw fit to monitor during the 1980s include: the Livermore Action group, various AIDS advocacy and gay rights groups like ACT UP and the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights, and the Committee in Solidarity With the People of El Salvador, a group opposed to the US’s Central American policy. One freelance journalist was detained by an FBI agent at an airport when returning from Nicaragua, at which point an FBI agent photocopied all of his papers.

    Over the last two decades, the Bureau has mostly concerned itself with investigating antiwar activists. Since 2000, the FBI has spied on the Thomas Merton Center, the Catholic Worker, an individual Quaker peace activist, the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Food Not Bombs, and their old friends the IWW, among many others. In 2008, it raided the homes of six activists from the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and the offices of the Anti-War Committee, and spied on the libertarian website Antiwar.com.

    Lest you think that only protesting war can attract FBI scrutiny, rest assured that in recent years the Bureau has also infiltrated and spied on Keystone XL protesters and helped coordinate the crackdown on Occupy Wall Street.

    The Bureau’s treatment of Muslims deserves special singling out. During the Bush years, the FBI helped spy on five prominent Muslim Americans, one of whom (Agha Saeed) had endorsed Bush for president, and another (Nihad Awad) of whom had met with Bush before he delivered the “Islam is peace” speech many have spent the last few years gushing over.

    Until recently, the FBI’s internal documents were rife with Islamophobia. In 2011, Wired reported that FBI counterterrorism agents were being taught that “mainstream Muslims” were terrorist sympathizers, that the more devout they were the more likely they were to be violent, and that Muslim Americans were essentially a population of terrorists ready at a moment’s notice to spring into action. The revelations prompted an internal purge of hundreds of documents, but as recent actions by Bureau agents have shown, it takes a lot more than eliminating such documents to change this mindset.

    All of this is on top of the FBI’s most high-profile anti-terrorism work, which has mirrored its COINTELPRO-era use of paid provocateurs to incite violence and entrap protesters. While the Bureau (including Comey) often congratulates itself for preventing terrorist plots, many of these plots are ones wholly manufactured by the FBI, where agents or handsomely paid informants (who receive as much as $100,000 per assignment) give the would-be terrorists the idea for an attack, provide them with the money and contacts to buy the necessary weapons and equipment, and goad the reluctant attackers into carrying it out every step of the way.

    According to Mother Jones’ Trevor Aaronson, all but three of the high-profile domestic terror plots in the ten years after September 2001 were FBI stings. In 2012, the FBI arrested five hapless Occupy protesters in Cleveland over a plot to blow up a bridge — one that was entirely conceived of and orchestrated by an FBI informant.

    The FBI is not and never has been an apolitical guardian of democracy. From its very inception, it has been an agency that mixed the responsibility of serving as a national police detective force with the relentless — and highly political — task of going after movements that seek to challenge political orthodoxy, no matter how minor.

    The FBI may not be committing COINTELPRO-like abuses anymore — at least not to our knowledge — but the Bureau’s recent history shows its authoritarian tendencies have never really gone away. Just because it happens to have crossed Trump does not mean it is worth of veneration. James Comey is not an American hero.

    None of this is to say that the Bureau’s investigation of the Trump campaign is all smoke and mirrors, or that we shouldn’t be disturbed by the Comey firing. Trump’s bumbling attempt to potentially shield his administration from investigation is a serious matter. We should all be outraged at his blatant arrogation of power — but let’s not give the Bureau too much credit.


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    Muslims concerned as FBI avoids 'terrorism' label for mosque bombing


    It took the FBI fewer than 24 hours to acknowledge last year's stabbing attack at a St. Cloud shopping mall as a possible act of terrorism.

    Dahir Adan, a 20-year-old Somali-American man, stabbed 10 people at the Crossroads Center mall last September before he was shot dead by an off-duty cop.

    "We are currently investigating this as a potential act of terrorism. And I do say 'potential,'" Rick Thornton, the FBI's special agent in charge for Minneapolis, said at the time. "There's a lot we don't know."

    But following Saturday's bombing of Bloomington's Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center, law enforcement and local media outlets have yet to use the word "terrorism" in describing the incident.

    That has some of the Muslim community and others saying there's a double standard at play in discussing the attack.

    "I don't know what their intent was, but in my eyes, and in the eyes of anybody who wants to realize what this is — it's a terrorist attack," said Hodan Hassan.

    She had planned to take her 13-year-old son to weekend school at Dar Al-Farooq on Saturday morning.

    But then came horrifying text messages from the mosque saying classes were canceled.

    So, Hassan scoured the news. It was several hours before the first reports came trickling in. When they did, she said the media referred to it as an "explosion." Hassan said that minimizes the crime.

    "When you target someone's worship place, when you throw a bomb, and to instill fear in someone else's heart," Hassan said, she thinks that constitutes terrorism.

    She was relieved to hear Gov. Mark Dayton call it an act of terrorism. U.S. House Rep. Keith Ellison also called the perpetrators "terrorists."

    After Saturday's bombing, Thornton told reporters it was too early to say much at all without a suspect or a motive firmed up.

    "A lot of the questions we've been receiving from the media thus far," Thornton said, include "is it a hate crime? Is it an act of terrorism? Who did it? That's what the investigation is going to, is to determine who and what the motivation was."

    He did not take questions at the press conference, and the FBI declined to comment for this story. A statement from Thornton released Monday afternoon said the investigation is the bureau's top priority, and that "every available resource has been and will continue to be focused on this case until it is solved."

    One key difference between the St. Cloud stabbing and the Bloomington bombing is that it was immediately clear who the perpetrator was — Adan was killed during the stabbing.

    For the Bloomington incident, there is no obvious suspect, let alone what motivated that person. The FBI has only said that the perpetrator used an improvised explosive device, or IED, to blow out the imam's office. No one was hurt.

    Former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger said investigators are typically loath to speculate on motivation without having many of the facts in hand.

    "Rushing to call something a crime of terror without the evidence is premature," he said, adding that law enforcement's reticence suggests the investigation is far from complete.

    But Heffelfinger is confident the bombing amounts to a hate crime — based on even the scant amount of information available.

    That's important, he said, because hate crimes — like terrorism — are considered high-priority for law enforcement.

    "I mean, my goodness — doing it right before the first prayer session of the day? I mean, it was clearly a hate crime," Heffelfinger said.

    Still, Asad Zaman, who directs the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, said he's concerned the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have avoided any mention of terrorism while describing the incident.

    He said he can only imagine the hype if circumstances of the bombing were different.

    "If the victim were not Muslim, there would be discussions of terrorism. The 'T-word' would have been used," Zaman said. "If the perpetrator was Muslim, the 'T-word' would definitely be used."


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    FBI Entrapment: “You Have the Way Out”

    Recordings Capture Brutal FBI Tactics to Recruit a Potential Informant

    A bailiff pushed Jabar Ali Refaie’s wheelchair into a federal courtroom in Tampa, Florida, on September 20. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit and looking weak from not having had the drugs he takes to treat his multiple sclerosis, the 37-year-old Refaie was here for a bond hearing after being indicted on felony charges that allege he sold counterfeit BMW logos and diagnostic software on eBay.

    Refaie’s case seemed by appearances to be about a lot more than selling shady car parts on the internet. That much was obvious from Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlton C. Gammons’s stiff bond requests — $25,000, a GPS monitoring device, the surrender of his passport, and the removal of all firearms from his residence — as well as the six U.S. Homeland Security agents who packed into the courtroom for Refaie’s hearing.

    Refaie’s 30-year-old girlfriend, Felicity, was present in the courtroom. She and Refaie had been married before; after their divorce, when Refaie was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, they rekindled their relationship and live together again but never remarried. Felicity told U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas McCoun III that Refaie wasn’t a flight risk. They have 4-month-old daughter together, she said. The government knows all about their lives. “The government has been monitoring us for the better part of two years,” she told the judge matter-of-factly. McCoun agreed with the suggested conditions from the U.S. attorney’s office, and Refaie was released from jail that evening after posting bond. Prior to this charge, Refaie had no criminal history.

    For two years, the FBI has followed and harassed Refaie as part of an apparent effort to recruit him to become an informant or cooperate in some way with counterterrorism investigations. The FBI has more than 15,000 informants today, many working because they have been coerced or threatened by criminal prosecution or immigration enforcement. Classified FBI policy documents published by The Intercept in January revealed the often heavy-handed methods used by the government to recruit informants, including so-called threat assessments as “a means to induce him/her into becoming a recruited [informant] mainly through identifying that person’s motivations and vulnerabilities.” What’s unique about Refaie’s interactions with the FBI is that he recorded and documented the conversations and events that led to his indictment. The FBI did not respond to a request for comment or a list of questions about Refaie’s case.

    “I don’t believe they are representatives of the government; they’re misusing the government with their badges,” Refaie said of the federal agents he’s come to know. “They’re breaking oaths that they swore to uphold.”

    Refaie’s story begins in September 2015, when agents claiming to be from Immigration and Customs Enforcement showed up unannounced at the offices of a web hosting company where Refaie oversaw data center operations. A Muslim U.S. citizen whose mother was Jewish-American and father a Jordanian citizen, Refaie brought the agents to a conference room, where they told him he might be a victim of identity theft and then showed him a mugshot of an Arab man.

    “I was staring at the picture, and I said, ‘I know a lot of people who look like him. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen this guy,’” Refaie told the agents. As the months passed, Refaie began to grow suspicious. He saw cars that he suspected were following him. A camera appeared to be mounted on the light pole near his house, so he took pictures of it. On August 17, 2016, he found a GPS device on his girlfriend’s Toyota Camry and filmed himself removing it. A week later, he found another GPS device on his BMW. He also found electrical outlets in his house that he says were replaced with ones that looked identical but seemed to have listening equipment on the inside. He took pictures of those too.

    He called the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to document what he’d found. A police report written on September 1, 2016, described how Refaie “provided us with a wrapped-up towel containing several electrical outlet plugs and a device that appeared to be a GPS.” In another report from that day, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Detective John McDarby wrote: “Mr. Refaie is not aware if he is being followed by a law enforcement agency or a private corporation. He is in fear.”

    Less than a week later, Refaie had the answer to the question of who was following him. Agents with the Department of Homeland Security came to his office. They were at that moment executing a search warrant at his home, they told him. “I’ll see you at the house,” he told the agents.

    Security cameras inside and outside of Refaie’s house in Riverview, Florida, south of Tampa, recorded the raid. At 12:27 p.m. on September 6, 2016, a black Homeland Security armored vehicle and a large blue van parked on the cul-de-sac in front of Refaie’s driveway. Wearing body armor and carrying a large shield, agents broke down the front door. An inside camera recorded two of Refaie’s six cats scurrying for safety as the front door flew open. The agents then walked slowly back down the driveway, their movements captured by an outside camera.

    At 12:29 p.m., Felicity, who was pregnant at the time, walked downstairs from her bedroom and saw the front door busted open. She was then instructed to walk backward to the middle of the driveway, lift her shirt above her waistline, and turn around in a circle. She then was ordered to get on her knees and crawl backward to the end of the driveway, where she was detained by two agents. About 15 minutes later, the agents sent a bomb robot into the house; it went around the first floor and then struggled to get up the stairs, all while being recorded by the inside security cameras. Agents, guns pointed forward, finally entered the house using tactical formation at 1:54 p.m. A few minutes later, one of the agents noticed a security camera mounted high on the wall by the stairs. He grabbed a piece of the door’s trim molding that they’d busted off and used it as a makeshift club to strike the camera.

    The search warrant, which a magistrate judge signed based on alleged government evidence that Refaie was selling counterfeit car parts on eBay, suggested that federal agents were particularly interested in Refaie’s computer activity and provided authority to collect all computer equipment and storage media.

    As federal agents searched Refaie’s home, he was desperately trying to get there. Thinking that agents might have blocked off the main entrance to his neighborhood, Refaie took a back way to his house. As he did, a 2013 Dodge Caravan crashed into the side of his car. He said he got out to check on the driver, fearing he’d just been in an accident with a neighborhood soccer mom. An FBI agent knocked him to the ground, he said. Later, Refaie discovered that the minivan was registered to the FBI and was driven by FBI Special Agent Candace C. Calderon. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office faulted Refaie for the accident, based on the eyewitness account of another FBI agent, according to a traffic crash report, which identified the FBI as the owner of the van. (The traffic charge against Refaie was later dismissed after he went to court to fight it and the FBI agents did not show up to testify.) Refaie said the federal agents left his house at about 9 p.m. that evening. According to a receipt of what was seized, agents took much of Refaie’s electronics and even Felicity’s designer purses.

    Months passed, and Refaie was not arrested. The government returned some of his belongings, including the purses. Refaie said that Homeland Security agents suggested he could improve his situation if he’d work with them as an informant — something he wasn’t willing to do.

    Then, in January, Refaie received a call from FBI Special Agent Moises Quiñones, who told Refaie that Homeland Security agents had found some ISIS videos on a USB flash drive, and now he was the subject of an FBI counterterrorism inquiry. Refaie said Quiñones also told him that the FBI was in possession of the GPS device and electrical outlets that he had given the local sheriff’s office. Quiñones sent out agents to interview Refaie’s friends and family. Agents asked these people if Refaie was known to have any connections with ISIS.

    In a subsequent call, Refaie told Quiñones that he would be recording their conversations. “With me, if you want to record our conversation, I don’t have a problem with it,” Quiñones replied. In the phone conversations, Quiñones assured Refaie that he hadn’t committed a crime, but they needed to meet in person to discuss the ISIS videos. “We cannot waste time. We have a job to do,” Quiñones said.

    Refaie agreed to meet with Quiñones in a public place, and he told him in advance that their conversation would be recorded. On March 16, Refaie met with Quiñones at a table outside a Wawa gas station. Another FBI agent, Retzilu Rodriguez, accompanied Quiñones.

    “The reason I called you is I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt,” Quiñones told Refaie.

    “The benefit of the doubt for what?” Refaie asked.

    “To what I’m going to ask you about right now,” Quiñones answered.

    Quiñones told Refaie that the Homeland Security search of his home had uncovered ISIS materials. “They’re videos about recruitment, ISIS recruitment,” he told Refaie. “Propaganda videos.”

    “I don’t believe that,” Refaie said.

    “No, they are,” Quiñones followed.

    Quiñones asked Refaie if he knew Neil Prakash, an Australian ISIS member who was arrested in Turkey in November 2016. After Refaie said he didn’t know who that was, Quiñones told him that a video of Prakash was among those they’d found.

    “I’m not aware of that,” Refaie said.

    “I’m fully aware of that,” Quiñones retorted.

    “But anyway, it’s not something illegal if it’s —” Refaie said, shaking his head.

    “I’m not saying it’s illegal,” Quiñones said, interrupting. “But it’s very concerning.”

    The FBI agent also told Refaie that they’d found a video of Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a Florida man who went by Abu Huraira al-Amriki and had died in a suicide attack in Syria. These videos are “red flags,” Quiñones told him. Quiñones said during the meeting that Abusalha fought for ISIS; in fact, he was with the Nusra Front.

    “These things were on YouTube, my friend, OK?” Refaie said. “So don’t tell me I have them.”

    “You had ’em on a thumb drive,” Quiñones said.

    “Show me. Show me the evidence. Where’s your evidence?”

    “Let’s go to the office, and I’ll show it to you.”

    “Fuck you and your office.”

    The conversation continued this way, until Quiñones seemed to threaten prosecution if Refaie did not cooperate with their investigation. “It’s not a threat. I’m just going say this. I know Mr. Joe Durand, OK?” Quiñones said, referring to the Homeland Security Investigations agent who led the raid of Refaie’s home. “And just in case you didn’t know, he has a very good case on you.”

    “Oh, really, for counterfeit car parts?” Refaie asked, laughing.

    “Again, you can laugh all you want. But you know what? He has a good case on you. He just wanted me to convey that to you.”

    Quiñones also told Refaie that he was present for the search of his home, which would suggest that the FBI’s counterterrorism interests in Refaie began before the agents had found the purported videos.

    “Why were you at my house?” Refaie demanded to know.

    “Because sometimes we work together,” Quiñones said.

    “Why would the Joint Terrorism Task Force work together with Homeland Security in order to raid my house for counterfeit car parts?” Refaie asked incredulously.

    Toward the end of the interview, Refaie grew frustrated. “Listen, I intend to waste your time, your resources, OK, and your people, if they continue to harass me over and over and over again, because you’re going to come up with cero, zilch,” Refaie told the agent. He then ended his statement with the Arabic word for zero.

    “Probably because you stopped what you were doing,” Quiñones told him.

    In the weeks that followed this meeting, Refaie said he witnessed increased surveillance. He began to confront the people who were following him and recording his encounters with a camera mounted on his BMW’s dashboard.

    April 25 was particularly intense. He found himself being followed by a Chevy Malibu. At one point, in a shopping mall parking lot with the Malibu directly behind him, Refaie stopped his car in the lane and hopped out to confront the driver. “Who are you?” he demanded. “Open your door. I’ll call the police. I’ll call the police right now. You got a warrant?” The driver, whose car had a large radio antenna mounted on the trunk, just backed up slowly without engaging Refaie and left the parking lot, as Refaie drove behind him honking the horn.

    Later that day, while at a county government office, Refaie cornered a Ford Fusion he’d seen following him. As the driver attempted to back out, Refaie walked in front of the car. Blocked in by a curb and Refaie’s body, the driver stayed put but would not get out of the car or put down the window. Refaie whistled, and a security guard came out to assess the situation. Still, the driver would not exit the vehicle. As the security guard called local police and Refaie went back to his car so it would no longer obstruct traffic in the parking lot, the Ford took a quick turn and left the parking lot. “Did you see this ****?” Refaie can be heard asking the security guard.

    When he returned home, a frustrated Refaie called Quiñones to ask him about the surveillance.

    “Let’s make a point clear right now,” Quiñones told him. “If you’re calling me to find out what I’m doing, I mean, then I think we’re wasting our time because I’m not going to tell you anything as to what we’re doing. So we’re clear.”

    Quiñones then told Refaie that he could make the investigation go away. “Mr. Refaie, you have the way out. I gave you —”

    “Oh, you want me to confess to your crimes? You want me to confess to your crimes, your manufactured bullshit?” Refaie answered angrily.

    “We’re not talking about any crimes here, Mr. Refaie,” Quiñones said.

    Refaie took this to mean he was being asked to cooperate with FBI investigations and possibly serve as an informant. “Moises, that’s called extortion,” Refaie answered.

    “You can call it whatever you want.”

    “No, it’s called extortion.”

    Quiñones again told Refaie that he believed he was communicating with people overseas. “You have the way out, Mr. Refaie,” Quiñones said. “Tell me why. Just tell me why you were in communication with those guys overseas. And you know the ones I’m referring to.”

    “I don’t know who you’re referring to,” Refaie said.

    “You have the way out,” the agent said again.

    By this time, Refaie had already been indicted. He just didn’t know. On April 13, a grand jury charged Refaie under seal with filing a false income tax return, alleging that he did not report his eBay earnings for the 2010 tax year. Over the next five months, as Refaie refused to cooperate with the FBI, federal agents and prosecutors continued to work on his indictment. On September 6, 2017, in another sealed indictment, a grand jury added the charges of wire fraud and dealing in counterfeit goods based on allegations that Refaie was selling fake BMW parts and diagnostic software.

    Refaie and I had been in contact for a few months, starting well before his arrest. I had initially suspected that he would be like many others who have contacted me with claims of FBI harassment and surveillance. I had assumed his claims, like theirs, would be impossible to prove, but Refaie turned out to be different. By recording his conversations with federal agents and filing local police reports, Refaie had effectively run a one-man counterintelligence program against the FBI.

    Refaie and I had agreed to meet one last time in mid-September before I’d write an article about him. Then Hurricane Irma ripped through the Caribbean and up the middle of Florida. We rescheduled our final meeting for September 20.

    Two days before our scheduled meeting, around 10 p.m., Refaie sent me a series of long messages on Signal describing the FBI surveillance, and he expressed some concerns that his story, once told, might embolden conspiracy theorists who are being followed not by real agents but by ghosts in their heads. Refaie ended his series of messages with the kicker: “Enjoy. Talk soon!”

    I did not respond until nearly 5:30 p.m. the next day. I noticed that a second checkmark, which indicates in Signal that the message has been delivered, had not appeared next to my reply. The next morning, as I was headed to Refaie’s house, I wrote again: “Leaving here soon. Not sure you got my messages from yesterday (Signal shows only one checkmark next to them).” Again, only one checkmark displayed next to that message.

    Refaie and his girlfriend feed the outdoor cats in their neighborhood; in the entryway to their two-story, concrete-block house are bowls of food and water. I rang the doorbell, and Felicity answered. She was holding their 4-month-old daughter in her arms. “He was arrested yesterday,” Felicity told me.

    At his bond hearing, Refaie gave me a friendly nod. Felicity was there with their daughter in a stroller. “She wants to see you,” Felicity said softly, as she held up the infant and turned her toward Refaie.

    Refaie and I met at his home two days later. He said he was suspicious of me after he’d sent me those Signal messages, I hadn’t responded, and then he had been arrested. It was weird, he said. “I think I’m at 70/30 that you’re not working for the FBI,” he told me.

    I pressed him: “If you’re only at 70 percent on this, why are you even talking to me?”

    He conceded that it was unlikely I was working with the FBI. In turn, I’ll concede that it appears unlikely Rafaie is involved in terrorism. But I don’t know about the allegedly counterfeit car parts. Refaie said he intends to plead not guilty to those charges.


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    How One Man Refused to Spy on Fellow Muslims for the FBI—and Then Lost Everything

    The case of Ayyub Abdul-Alim fits a decades-long pattern of government criminalization of African-American Muslims.

    On the night of December 9, 2011, Siham Stewart called her husband, Ayyub Abdul-Alim, as he closed down his corner store, Nature’s Garden, in Springfield, Massachusetts. She asked him to bring home a gallon of milk. A few minutes later, she watched from the window of their second-floor apartment as he was seized in the street and handcuffed by two police officers.

    Forty-eight hours after Abdul-Alim’s arrest, FBI agent James Hisgen and Springfield police officer Ronald Sheehan offered him the chance to walk away free of charges if he agreed to become an informant on the Muslim community. He refused the deal and is now held at the Cedar Junction maximum-security prison in Massachusetts, facing up to sixteen years behind bars.

    While awaiting trial, Abdul-Alim discovered that his wife received cash payments from the FBI totaling at least $11,949. The receipts were signed by Sheehan and Hisgen. Stewart testified against Abdul-Alim in court and admitted to working as an informant. This past April, Abdul-Alim was found guilty of illegal possession of a firearm that he alleges the officers planted on him as part of their attempt to pressure him to work for the FBI.

    Abdul-Alim, 36, grew up in New York City in a family of African-American and Puerto Rican heritage. Prior to his arrest, he founded and ran the Quran and Sunnah Community Center in Springfield, which offered free meals and prayer services, and Connections Transportation, which transported people to visit their loved ones in prison. He was also a small business owner, an apartment complex manager, a husband, and a father figure to Stewart’s son.

    His life began to change in 2010 after he returned from a three-week religious trip to Mecca. Abdul-Alim reports that he began to receive calls from James Hisgen, an agent at the FBI’s Springfield field office, who asked him questions such as, “Do you love America?” and told him to call back if he was interested in working as an informant.

    In early 2011, Hisgen showed up at Abdul-Alim’s mosque, Masjid Al Tawheed, with two other agents. According to the Imam, Dr. Ishmael Ali, Hisgen claimed he was from the Springfield Building Department and demanded to search the mosque. Dr. Ali turned him away because he did not have a warrant. Dr. Ali recalled that in the two years leading up to his arrest, Abdul-Alim continually sought advice on how to get the FBI agents to leave him alone.

    Since 9/11, a key element in the FBI’s counter-terrorism tactics has been the aggressive recruitment and deployment of large numbers of informants among Muslim communities in the United States. Part of the purpose is to gather information on political or community activism, which the FBI frames as a precursor to extremist violence. But the tactics also fit a familiar pattern—one that harkens back to the FBI’s history of targeting the civil rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s, when it was likewise asserted that extremist ideologues were fueling violence.

    At that time, FBI agents were each expected to hire at least one informant to report on the goings-on of black people. African-Americans were watched by FBI informants everywhere they congregated: churches, bookstores, bars, restaurants, college classrooms and other gathering spots. In addition to providing information on activist leaders, the informants served as “listening posts” for blanket information on black communities.

    The FBI believed that the civil rights movement was a front for Communist subversion and that the urban rebellions of black youth were instigated by Communist agitators. Systematic spying, it was thought, would help prevent riots but ultimately the purpose was to disable the growing radicalism of black America. Black Muslims—branded the “extremists” of the day—were seen as especially politicized, and prominent community figures such as Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X were placed on NSA and FBI watch lists. Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad had been on the FBI’s radar since World War II; in 1942, agents had arrested him on charges of draft evasion.

    The best-known FBI initiative directed at the black liberation movement was COINTELPRO—short for Counterintelligence Program. It was launched in 1956 to infiltrate the Communist Party but shortly afterwards was expanded to include the ongoing surveillance of black activists. Disinformation campaigns, arrests on trumped-up charges, faked evidence, and assassinations were used to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” black movements, according to the FBI’s own documents. But COINTELPRO was just one initiative within the FBI’s wider surveillance and criminalization of black organizations.

    Abdul-Alim’s parents were themselves caught up in these longer histories of FBI surveillance. His father was active with the Black Panther Party in New York and his mother was a member of the Young Lords, the radical Puerto Rican youth group that was, like the Panthers, targeted by the FBI. Both parents were involved in the Mosque of the Islamic Brotherhood, a Harlem-based Muslim congregation founded by an associate of Malcolm X and whose attendees have faced decades of surveillance.

    Today, black Muslims stand at the intersection of the War on Drugs’ institutional racism and the War on Terror’s institutional Islamophobia: their race frames them as prone to gang violence, their religion as a terrorist threat. Abdul-Alim’s case shows the extreme measures the FBI is willing to use to pressure Muslims to work as informants on the terror war’s domestic front.

    On the night of his arrest, Sheehan instructed two Springfield Police officers to stop Abdul-Alim as he approached a store. According to a police radio transcript, the officers pat-frisked Abdul-Alim and told Sheehan that he was clear of any weapons. Sheehan ordered them to conduct a second search and, according to one transcript, they again responded that Abdul-Alim did not have any weapons.

    Sheehan asked over the police radio, “Is the subject in earshot?” and then asked one of the officers, Angel Berrios, to step away. This is where the record ends. Abdul-Alim alleges that Berrios then pushed him against the police car, pulled down his pants and boxers, probed his testicles, spread his buttocks and yelled out, “Gun!”

    The officers handcuffed Abdul-Alim and placed him in a police cruiser. Abdul-Alim alleges that Sheehan then approached the vehicle and asked, “Are you ready to make the deal of a lifetime?” When Abdul-Alim protested, he was told to “think it over” on his way to the police station.

    Sheehan, who is also a member of the Springfield Joint Terrorism Task Force, immediately called his FBI supervisor to notify him of the arrest.

    Forty-eight hours after the arrest, it became apparent what the “deal of a lifetime” would involve. As Abdul-Alim awaited arraignment at the Springfield police station, Sheehan and Hisgen questioned him for about an hour. Abdul-Alim recalls Hisgen saying, “You may remember I called you about a year ago requesting a meeting to discuss possible information you may have that could be helpful, but you refused to meet with me. Maybe you’ll be more willing to cooperate now.” At this point, Abdul-Alim recognized Hisgen as the same man who had called him for months and attempted to search his mosque. He recounted these events to The Nation from behind a plexiglass barrier in Hampton County Jail.

    Abdul-Alim, who had been convicted of dealing cocaine in 2003, assumed the interrogation regarded drugs or gangs. Hisgen allegedly said, “I’m not interested in that nickel and dime ****. I want the real ****. Like terrorism ****.”

    “They said that I was facing ten years, but I could walk away right now if I agreed to be an informant,” recalls Abdul-Alim. “They said that they would give me the names of specific people who they wanted me to target, and I would use anti-government propaganda to incite them to violent action. They implied that they would provide me with guns and bombs to give people.” Hisgen and Sheehan did not record the interrogation.

    Abdul-Alim refused the deal and was held at the Hampden County Correctional Center for two and a half years awaiting trial. In December 2013, the prosecution introduced a new set of charges. Police officers claimed that, shortly after Abdul-Alim’s arrest, they had conducted a search of the apartment complex he managed and discovered a bag of guns in an empty suite. “They supposedly sat on this information for two years, which is definitely very unusual,” said Abdul-Alim’s public defense attorney, Thomas Robinson.

    In April 2014, a four-day trial began on the original gun charges but it was riddled with inconsistencies. The officers could not agree on simple details, including how many times they searched Abdul-Alim, or the location and time that they allegedly found the gun. The gun was originally described by police and a ballistic expert as a .22 revolver but later identified in court as a .25 semi-automatic pistol manufactured in 1908.

    A police forensics analysis conducted three days after the arrest found that there were no fingerprints on the gun. In contradiction to police procedure, the arresting officers failed to retrieve surveillance videos of the arrest scene, wear gloves while handling the weapon, or write a complete police report.

    In Court, Siham Stewart testified as an informant saying she had been paid by the police and the FBI but denied that the payments were related to Abdul-Alim. She said that, whenever she was short on rent money, she would call “Ron,” referring to Officer Sheehan, and he would pay her in cash. Abdul-Alim says that Stewart convinced him to sign his bank accounts and store over to her while he was in jail. She sold the store, took his money, and left.

    “When I saw her in court after I found out that she was an informant,” said Abdul-Alim, “she just smiled at me like this was all some kind of game. I realized I had lost my store, my savings, and my wife. Everything.” Before she met Abdul-Alim, Stewart and other members of her family were in the process of applying for US citizenship, which may have given the government an opportunity to pressure her into working for the FBI.

    The prosecution presented the case against Abdul-Alim as a straightforward gun charge. The presiding judge, Constance Sweeney, blocked the defense from introducing evidence on the involvement of the FBI. Sweeney barred three defense witnesses, including Dr. Ali, from testifying about the FBI’s long-term harassment of Abdul-Alim. Also prevented from giving evidence was Benjamin Swan, a state senator whom Abdul-Alim had contacted prior to his arrest to discuss his FBI harassment.

    Of the fourteen jurors, twelve were white and one was black. The jury returned a hung verdict twice, warranting a retrial. Sweeney did not accept the verdict until the jurors reached a “consensus”: guilty. Abdul-Alim was sentenced to four to six years and still faces another ten years in relation to the second set of charges.

    The Springfield Police Department and the FBI declined to comment on the case. Siham Stewart changed her address and was unreachable via cellphone.
    * * *
    Officially, COINTELPRO operations ended in 1971 but the use of informants to infiltrate political and community organizations continued. What changed during the 1990s, and especially following 9/11, were the rationales used to justify such tactics: it was no longer the threat of black nationalist “subversion” but the threat of Muslim “radicalization” that was invoked. Moreover, with new provisions in the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, the FBI could launch investigations of a suspected individual or organization simply for providing “material support” to terrorism—a vague term that could include ideological activity unrelated to any actual plot to carry out violence. While COINTELPRO became notorious for flagrantly violating federal laws, these measures effectively legitimized the same kinds of investigation and criminalization of political dissent.

    Consider, for example, the case of Jamil al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, a black Muslim activist whose targeting and subsequent incarceration encapsulates the historical continuities between FBI tactics of the 1960s and the post-9/11 period. In 1967, H. Rap Brown became the chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), famous for its role in the civil rights movement but increasingly isolated after it opted to oppose the Vietnam War. Brown was twenty-three years old and already known for his powerful speeches in support of the Black Power movement. Placed at the top of the FBI’s target list of black revolutionaries, over the next three years he faced a succession of indictments, arrests, and attempted shootings and bombings.

    Eventually, in 1971, the government convicted Brown for involvement in an alleged robbery that, according to a contemporary report in The New York Times, may have been part of an attempt by radicals to prevent drug dealing in the black community. While in prison in New York, he converted to Islam and renamed himself Jamil al-Amin. After he was released in 1976, he settled in Atlanta, Georgia, where he opened a community grocery store and helped rid the neighborhood of drugs. But he continued to face regular law enforcement harassment and arbitrary arrests. During the 1990s, in a bid to connect him to criminal activity, FBI informants were placed in the Atlanta Muslim community where he had become an imam. Despite accumulating a 44,000-page file on him, there seemed no viable means to return him to prison.

    Then, in 2000, al-Amin was arrested on murder charges and accused of being involved in a shoot-out with two Fulton County Sheriff’s deputies, one of whom was killed. The surviving officer admitted to wounding the assailant in the exchange of gunfire. But despite the fact that al-Amin had no injuries, the same officer still identified him as the shooter. Moreover, another person admitted to the crime in a sworn affidavit and gave a more plausible account of events than the prosecution’s version. Undeterred by this confession and the lack of evidence linking al-Amin to the shoot-out, the jury convicted him to a lifetime prison sentence.

    At the Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, al-Amin continued his activism: he used the prison’s formal procedures to register a number of grievances relating to the inability of Muslim prisoners to practice their religion. As news of this spread among other prisoners, Muslims requested that he represent them in negotiations with the prison authorities. But an intelligence unit within the prison saw such developments as a threat and, in 2006, the FBI prepared a report entitled, “The Attempt to Radicalize the Georgia Department of Corrections’ Inmate Muslim Population.” The report alleged that al-Amin was at the center of an organized attempt to create a Muslim “solidarity movement” in the Georgia prison system, which the FBI interpreted as raising “security and radicalization concerns.”

    The following year, al-Amin was abruptly transferred to the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, where the US government incarcerates those it accuses of being among the most dangerous al-Qaeda terrorists. At the age of seventy, he was placed in an underground cage 1,400 miles away from home. Despite being convicted only of state charges, he was held in a federal facility. For the last seven years, he has been in solitary confinement for twenty-three hours a day—a tactic that is widely considered to be a form of psychological torture.

    Over the last year, al-Amin’s health has deteriorated dramatically and he received a preliminary diagnosis of multiple myeloma, a life-threatening blood cancer. His supporters flooded the Supermax prison and the Bureau of Prisons with calls, leading the authorities to transfer him to a federal medical center where he could be properly diagnosed and treated. In September, he was diagnosed with cancer but prison authorities are currently refusing to treat him and plan to transfer him back to solitary confinement in a Supermax prison.

    Followers of Jamil al-Amin have also been treated as terrorists over the last decade. Luqman Abdullah, an African-American imam at a mosque on Detroit’s impoverished West Side, was killed in an FBI raid in 2009, the culmination of a two-year “counter-terrorist” operation that involved entrapping congregants into transporting stolen goods. Abdullah’s son, Omar Regan, views the killing as “unfinished business” from the days of COINTELPRO.

    In 2008, the FBI had a roster of 15,000 paid informants, a tenfold increase since 1975 when the number was 1,500. Some informants receive as much as $100,000 per case. Over the last decade, the FBI has on multiple occasions used these informants to manipulate Muslims into participating in staged terrorist plots that play well on the evening news and justify federal counter-terrorism budgets.

    The Newburgh Four case is one of the most obvious examples. In 2009, an FBI informant, Shahed Hussain, used financial incentives to convince four impoverished black Muslim men from upstate New York to agree to play a role in his staged terrorist plot. In considering the case, Judge Colleen McMahon criticized the FBI’s approach, stating: “I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would have been no crime here except the government instigated it, planned it, and brought it to fruition.” Nevertheless, the Newburgh Four each received twenty-five-year prison sentences. Hussain had earlier ensnared two other men—Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain of Albany, New York—in a sting operation that resulted in fifteen-year sentences. Since 9/11, there has not been a successful entrapment defense in a terrorism-related prosecution.

    Hussain’s role in the Newburgh and Albany cases is eerily similar to what FBI agent Hisgen hoped Abdul-Alim would do among Springfield’s Muslims in his “deal of a lifetime.” The way the FBI pressured Ayyub Abdul-Alim to work for them is typical of the countless attempts made in the post-9/11 era to recruit Muslim informants. What makes his case different is that he took the unusual step of refusing. He sought justice through the legal system and, as with every other post-9/11 case in which a Muslim in the United States has mounted an entrapment defense, was unsuccessful.

    Thanks to Edward Snowden’s revelations, surveillance is again a topic of public discussion. But the mainstream debate ignores what government surveillance and criminalization actually mean for targeted communities. The black Muslim experience of being targeted by informants ought to make for an important case study but is hidden from view. While there are overlaps with the experiences of other Muslims and other black people in the United States, the black Muslim experience has its own distinctive history, marked by decades of government spying and criminalization. In the Cold War, black Muslims were seen as constituting a radical threat of subversion; in the War on Terror, the combination of their race and religion makes them easy prey for sting operations, which, on closer inspection, look more like entrapments. While there is now awareness and outrage at the J. Edgar Hoover-era suppression of legitimate dissent, this historical lesson is rarely applied to our own time.

    With much of the evidence that supported Abdul-Alim’s case ruled inadmissible, the trial came down to a matter of whose testimony to trust—law enforcement officers or a black man with previous convictions. In his closing statement, the prosecutor urged jury members to ask themselves if it was more likely that Abdul-Alim was caught with a gun or that the police and FBI “conspired” to entrap him. Apparently, this was sufficient to keep Abdul-Alim in prison.


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    Government agents 'directly involved' in most high-profile US terror plots

    Nearly all of the highest-profile domestic terrorism plots in the United States since 9/11 featured the "direct involvement" of government agents or informants, a new report says.

    Some of the controversial "sting" operations "were proposed or led by informants", bordering on entrapment by law enforcement. Yet the courtroom obstacles to proving entrapment are significant, one of the reasons the stings persist.

    The lengthy report, released on Monday by Human Rights Watch, raises questions about the US criminal justice system's ability to respect civil rights and due process in post-9/11 terrorism cases. It portrays a system that features not just the sting operations but secret evidence, anonymous juries, extensive pretrial detentions and convictions significantly removed from actual plots.

    "In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act," the report alleges.

    Out of the 494 cases related to terrorism the US has tried since 9/11, the plurality of convictions – 18% overall – are not for thwarted plots but for "material support" charges, a broad category expanded further by the 2001 Patriot Act that permits prosecutors to pursue charges with tenuous connections to a terrorist act or group.

    In one such incident, the initial basis for a material-support case alleging a man provided "military gear" to al-Qaida turned out to be waterproof socks in his luggage.

    Several cases featured years-long solitary confinement for accused terrorists before their trials. Some defendants displayed signs of mental incapacity. Jurors for the 2007 plot to attack the Fort Dix army base, itself influenced by government informants, were anonymous, limiting defense counsel's ability to screen out bias.

    Human Rights Watch’s findings call into question the post-9/11 shift taken by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies toward stopping terrorist plots before they occur. While the vast majority of counterterrorism tactics involved are legally authorized, particularly after Congress and successive administrations relaxed restrictions on law enforcement and intelligence agencies for counterterrorism, they suggest that the government’s zeal to protect Americans has in some cases morphed into manufacturing threats.

    The report focuses primarily on 27 cases and accordingly stops short of drawing systemic conclusions. It also finds several trials and convictions for "deliberate attempts at terrorism or terrorism financing" that it does not challenge.

    The four high-profile domestic plots it found free of government involvement were the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing; Najibullah Zazi's 2009 plot to bomb the New York subway; the attempted Times Square carbombing of 2010; and the 2002 shooting at Los Angeles International Airport's El Al counter.

    But the report is a rare attempt at a critical overview of a system often touted by the Obama administration and civil libertarian groups as a rigorous, capable and just alternative to the military tribunals and indefinite detention advocated by conservative critics. It comes as new pressure mounts on a variety of counterterrorism practices, from the courtroom use of warrantless surveillance to the no-fly list and law enforcement's "suspicious activity reports" database.

    In particular, Human Rights Watch examines the extent and impact of law enforcement's use of terrorism informants, who can both steer people into attempted acts of violence and chill religious or civic behaviour in the communities they penetrate.

    Linda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, a social services agency, told the Guardian she almost has a "radar for informants" sent to infiltrate her Brooklyn community.

    While the FBI has long relied on confidential informants to alert them to criminal activity, for terrorism cases informants insert themselves into Muslim mosques, businesses and community gatherings and can cajole people toward a plot “who perhaps would never have participated in a terrorist act on their own initiative”, the study found.

    Many trade information for cash. The FBI in 2008 estimated it had 15,000 paid informants. About 30% of post-9/11 terrorism cases are considered sting operations in which informants played an “active role” in incubating plots leading to arrest, according to studies cited in the Human Rights Watch report. Among those roles are making comments “that appeared designed to inflame the targets” on “politically sensitive” subjects, and pushing operations forward if a target’s “opinions were deemed sufficiently troubling”.

    Entrapment, the subject of much FBI criticism over the years, is difficult to prove in court. The burden is on a defendant to show he or she was not “predisposed” to commit a violent act, even if induced by a government agent. Human Rights Watch observes that standard focuses attention “not on the crime, but on the nature of the subject”, often against a backdrop where “inflammatory stereotypes and highly charged characterizations of Islam and foreigners often prevail”.

    Among the informants themselves there is less ambiguity. “It is all about entrapment,” Craig Monteilh, one such former FBI informant tasked with mosque infiltration, told the Guardian in 2012.

    Informants, the study found, sometimes overcome their targets’ stated objections to engage in terrorism. A man convicted in 2006 of attempting to bomb the Herald Square subway station in Manhattan told an informant who concocted the plot he would have to check with his mother and was uncomfortable planting the bombs himself. One member of the "Newburgh Four" plot to attack synagogues and military planes – whose case is the subject of an HBO documentary airing on Monday – told his informant “maybe my mission hasn’t come yet”.

    Once in court, terrorism cases receive evidentiary and pre-trial leeway rarely afforded to non-terrorism cases. A federal judge in Virginia permitted into evidence statements made by a defendant while in a Saudi jail in which the defendant, Amed Omar Abu Ali, alleged torture, a longstanding practice in Saudi Arabia. The evidence formed the basis for a conviction, and eventually a life sentence, for conspiracy to assassinate George W Bush. Mohammed Warsame, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, was held in solitary confinement for five years before his trial.

    Another implication of the law-enforcement tactics cited the report is a deepening alienation of American Muslims from a government that publicly insists it needs their support to head off extremism but secretly deploys informants to infiltrate mosques and community centers.

    “The best way to prevent violent extremism inspired by violent jihadists is to work with the Muslim American community – which has consistently rejected terrorism – to identify signs of radicalization and partner with law enforcement when an individual is drifting towards violence. And these partnerships can only work when we recognize that Muslims are a fundamental part of the American family,” Obama said in a high-profile 2013 speech.

    Yet the Obama administration has needed to purge Islamophobic training materials from FBI counterterrorism, which sparked deep suspicion in US Muslim communities. It is now conducting a review of similar material in the intelligence community after a document leaked by Edward Snowden used the slur “Mohammed Raghead” as a placeholder for Muslims.


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    The FBI's anticipatory prosecution of Muslims to criminalize speech

    One of the major governmental abuses denounced by the 1976 final report of the Church Committee was the FBI's domestic counter intelligence programs (COINTELPRO). Under that program, the FBI targeted political groups and individuals it deemed subversive and dangerous - including civil rights activists (such as the NAACP and Martin Luther King), black nationalist movements, socialist and communist organizations, anti-war protesters, and various right-wing groups - and infiltrated them with agents who, among other things, attempted to manipulate members into agreeing to commit criminal acts so that the FBI could arrest and prosecute them. This program was exposed only because a left-wing group, the so-called "Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI", broke into an FBI office in Pennsylvania, stole the files relating to the program, and sent them to various newspapers.

    What made the program so controversial was that the FBI was attempting to create and encourage crimes rather than find actual criminals - all in order to punish those whose constitutionally protected political activism the US government found threatening. As Noam Chomsky wrote in a comprehensive 1999 article on the program: "During these years, FBI provocateurs repeatedly urged and initiated violent acts, including forceful disruption of meetings and demonstrations on and off university campuses, attacks on police, bombings, and so on." Once the program was exposed, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover insisted that there was no centralized authority for it and that it had ended, while the Church Committee's final report made clear just how illegal and threatening it was:

    More at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/mar/19/preemptive-prosecution-muslims-cointelpro

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    US: Terrorism Prosecutions Often An Illusion

    Investigations, Trials of American Muslims Rife with Abuse

    The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.

    The 214-page report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,” examines 27 federal terrorism cases from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement. It documents the significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as overly aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement.

    “Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report. “But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.”

    Many prosecutions have properly targeted individuals engaged in planning or financing terror attacks, the groups found. But many others have targeted people who do not appear to have been involved in terrorist plotting or financing at the time the government began to investigate them. And many of the cases involve due process violations and abusive conditions of confinement that have resulted in excessively long prison sentences.

    The report is based on more than 215 interviews with people charged with or convicted of terrorism-related crimes, members of their families and their communities, criminal defense attorneys, judges, current and former federal prosecutors, government officials, academics, and other experts.

    In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act. Multiple studies have found that nearly 50 percent of the federal counterterrorism convictions since September 11, 2001, resulted from informant-based cases. Almost 30 percent were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.

    In the case of the “Newburgh Four,” for example, who were accused of planning to blow up synagogues and attack a US military base, a judge said the government “came up with the crime, provided the means, and removed all relevant obstacles,” and had, in the process, made a terrorist out of a man “whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in scope.”

    The FBI often targeted particularly vulnerable people, including those with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent. The government, often acting through informants, then actively developed the plot, persuading and sometimes pressuring the targets to participate, and provided the resources to carry it out.

    “The US government should stop treating American Muslims as terrorists-in-waiting,” Prasow said. “The bar on entrapment in US law is so high that it’s almost impossible for a terrorism suspect to prove. Add that to law enforcement preying on the particularly vulnerable, such as those with mental or intellectual disabilities, and the very poor, and you have a recipe for rampant human rights abuses.”

    Rezwan Ferdaus, for example, pled guilty to attempting to blow up a federal building and was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Although an FBI agent even told Ferdaus’ father that his son “obviously” had mental health problems, the FBI targeted him for a sting operation, sending an informant into Ferdaus’ mosque. Together, the FBI informant and Ferdaus devised a plan to attack the Pentagon and US Capitol, with the FBI providing fake weaponry and funding Ferdaus’ travel. Yet Ferdaus was mentally and physically deteriorating as the fake plot unfolded, suffering depression and seizures so bad his father quit his job to care for him.

    The US has also made overly broad use of material support charges, punishing behavior that did not demonstrate an intent to support terrorism. The courts have accepted prosecutorial tactics that may violate fair trial rights, such as introducing evidence obtained by coercion, classified evidence that cannot be fairly contested, and inflammatory evidence about terrorism in which defendants played no part – and asserting government secrecy claims to limit challenges to surveillance warrants.

    Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is a US citizen who alleged that he was whipped and threatened with amputation while detained without charge in Saudi Arabia – after a roundup following the 2003 bombings of Western compounds in the Saudi capital of Riyadh – until he provided a confession to Saudi interrogators that he says was false. Later, when Ali went to trial in Virginia, the judge rejected Ali’s claims of torture and admitted his confession into evidence. He was convicted of conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists, and conspiracy to assassinate the president. He received a life sentence, which he is serving in solitary confinement at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

    The US has in terrorism cases used harsh and at times abusive conditions of confinement, which often appear excessive in relation to the security risk posed. This includes prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions on communicating in pretrial detention, possibly impeding defendants’ ability to assist in their own defense and contributing to their decisions to plead guilty. Judges have imposed excessively lengthy sentences, and some prisoners suffer draconian conditions post-conviction, including prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions on contact with families or others, sometimes without explanation or recourse.

    Nine months after his arrest on charges of material support for terrorism and while he was refusing a plea deal, Uzair Paracha was moved to a harsh regime of solitary confinement. Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) – national security restrictions on his contact with others – permitted Paracha to speak only to prison guards.

    “You could spend days to weeks without uttering anything significant beyond ‘Please cut my lights,’ ‘Can I get a legal call/toilet paper/a razor,’ etc., or just thanking them for shutting our light,” he wrote to the report’s researchers. After he was convicted, the SAMs were modified to permit him to communicate with other inmates. “I faced the harshest part of the SAMs while I was innocent in the eyes of American law,” he wrote.

    These abuses have had an adverse impact on American Muslim communities. The government’s tactics to seek out terrorism suspects, at times before the target has demonstrated any intention to use violence, has undercut parallel efforts to build relationships with American Muslim community leaders and groups that may be critical sources of information to prevent terrorist attacks.

    In some communities, these practices have deterred interaction with law enforcement. Some Muslim community members said that fears of government surveillance and informant infiltration have meant they must watch what they say, to whom, and how often they attend services.

    “Far from protecting Americans, including American Muslims, from the threat of terrorism, the policies documented in this report have diverted law enforcement from pursuing real threats,” Prasow said. “It is possible to protect people’s rights and also prosecute terrorists, which increases the chances of catching genuine criminals.”


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    Human rights report takes at U.S. terrorism prosecutions, criticizes FBI tactics

    A new human rights report offers a blistering assessment of the Justice Department’s role in the fight against terrorism, taking aim at tactics used to identify and prosecute suspects.

    In a lengthy examination of U.S. terrorism prosecutions, Human Rights Watch, working with Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute, said the FBI and the Justice Department have created a climate of fear in some Muslim communities through the use of surveillance and informants.

    The group accused the government of using sting operations, which some critics described as entrapment, to target people with mental or intellectual disabilities and said that such tactics have driven people away from mosques.

    “The report clearly shows, in many respects, the American public is being sold a false bill of goods,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “To be sure, the threat of terrorism is real,” she said. “But in many of the cases we documented, there was no threat until the FBI showed up and helped turn people into terrorists.”

    Marc Raimondi, a Justice Department spokesman, said: “The Department of Justice has been a steadfast ally of our nation’s civil rights groups for decades. The report itself acknowledges that the legal process used in the cases it highlighted is not only lawful but is also specifically approved by federal judges. . . . We do not and cannot target individuals solely for engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment, which includes free speech and religion.”

    Human Rights Watch, represented by Yale University’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons last year to gather accurate information on the number and conditions of prisoners being held on terrorism charges or post-conviction.

    Prasow, one of the report’s authors, said the group tried to get the information through public-record requests, but the government was reluctant to comply and Human Rights Watch sued for the information.

    Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 500 people, or about 40 cases a year, have been prosecuted in federal courts on terrorism charges. As of October, Human Rights Watch said, U.S. prisons held 475 people indicted in connection with or convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses.

    Of those serving sentences, the report said, 49 people were held in high-security prisons, 137 in administrative facilities and 237 in medium- or low-security prisons. According to the report, 44 terrorists were serving time at a supermax prison in Florence, Colo.

    Human Rights Watch said some prisoners were being held under harsh conditions that included prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions on their communication with family members and others.

    As an example of what it called abusive detention conditions, the group cited the case of Pakistani national Uzair Paracha. He was held in solitary confinement for nearly two years before he was convicted in New York in 2006 — on charges of providing material support for terrorism — and sentenced to 30 years.

    Paracha had been in contact with top al-Qaeda terrorists, including the nephew of the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

    “You could spend days to weeks without uttering anything significant beyond ‘please cut my lights,’ ‘can I get a legal call/toilet paper/a razor,’ etc., or just thanking them for shutting our light,” he said in a letter to Human Rights Watch.

    Paracha, 34, was later moved to a medium-security federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. He is scheduled to be released in 2029.

    The report examined 27 federal prosecutions with a total of 77 defendants and documented what it described as the “significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement.”

    Human Rights Watch said the cases “raise serious human rights concerns.”

    Among the recommendations in the report, Human Rights Watch said the FBI should ensure that investigations are not opened on the basis of “religious behavior, political opinion, or other activity protected by the right to freedom of expression under international law.”

    The group also asked that the Bureau of Prisons end prolonged solitary confinement.

    Michael P. Kortan, assistant director of the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs, defended the bureau’s record.

    “The FBI does not target individuals or groups on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion and engages in outreach with diverse communities to combat all criminal activity, including terrorism,” he said.

    Kortan said the use of informants and undercover agents is lawful and subject to “rigorous oversight.” He added that they are “invaluable tools in keeping our communities safe.”


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    Julian Assange Drops Truth Bomb About What Really Caused The Las Vegas Massacre

    Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks is known for speaking out and so forth but this was unexpected. While lots of people are against what he does, he has brought to the public lots of knowledge that we otherwise would not have been able to obtain.

    Assange tweeted a few things back in October in regards to terrorism and the FBI, This within days of the mass shooting in Las Vegas hinting at something I am sure lots of people have been considering. Assange suggesting that the FBI actually manufactures its own terrorism cases and is currently doing so on a scale like nothing we have ever seen before this possibly including the Las Vegas shooting.

    Michael German a former undercover agent with the FBI actually said as follows: “They’re manufacturing terrorism cases. These people are five steps away from being a danger to the US.” You see, when it comes to picking people to do their dirty work the FBI targets those who are vulnerable who would only do things of this sort if instigated.

    Assange’s tweets reads as follows:

    “Almost all “terror” plots are created by the FBI as part of its business model.

    What is the business of the FBI? Extracting tax. What does it need to do that? A stable threat. Prob? Real terrorists are sporadic & make FBI look weak. Solution? Make them.”

    “The FBI is giving guns to the mentally ill to attack people then leaping in to save the day, cameras rolling. What a bunch of jerks.”

    There was actually a study carried out not too long ago in regards to these things. It was a study that quantified signs of entrapment in a database of post-9/11 terror prosecutions. Researchers found that out of 580 cases 317 involved an informant or undercover agent. Most of those showed signs of entrapment. Leader of this study, Jesse Norris actually told BuzzFeed that he was disturbed by some of the tactics employed.


    However, of course, the FBI rejected the study’s findings. People have been complaining about the tactics that the FBI use for years and nothing has been done about it. The government has been pursuing terrorism for far too long. You can learn more about this by clicking below, it seems things are getting out of hand.


    Is our government coaxing people into plotting acts of terror and getting away with it? With all that is going on in the world, it seems likely. Please check out the video below and let us know what you think about all of this. Do you think the FBI should be allowed to do what they are doing? I find it surprising that mainstream media didn’t pick up Assange’s words and run with them. He has been in the media before over things he has said and now for whatever reason we are hearing nothing? Something has got to be up.


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    “I Refused to Secretly Spy”

    — An Iranian-American Turned Down the FBI and Wound Up With a Prison Sentence

    To all appearances, Ahmad Sheikhzadeh led the life of a typical New York academic. A 62-year-old Columbia University Ph.D., he lived alone in a small West Village rental, practiced yoga, attended lectures with friends, and conducted research at New York University’s labyrinthine Bobst Library. On Fridays, he’d travel uptown to a building at the corner of 40th Street and Third Avenue to work at Iran’s Mission to the United Nations, stepping directly into one of the most dangerous flashpoints in global politics.

    As Sheikhzadeh left his weekly briefing one day in March 2016, an FBI agent approached him. The agent did not immediately detain Sheikhzadeh, according to court filings; instead the investigator brought him to a hotel for questioning. Over the course of the night, the agent revealed that Sheikhzadeh was the subject of a sealed indictment in the Eastern District of New York.

    Eventually, the agent made his pitch. The FBI asked Sheikhzadeh “to cooperate with the government and to spy on his employer even though the charges against him did not include anyone else employed at the Mission,” according to court documents.

    When Sheikhzadeh refused, he was charged with falsifying his tax returns, followed by other, more serious accusations, including money laundering and conspiracy to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran.

    Sheikhzadeh’s prosecution — and the accusations traded between the government and his defense counsel — open a window on intelligence efforts unfolding in the wake of the Iran nuclear agreement and the role of federal law enforcement in the political rivalry between Washington and Tehran. At a moment when the White House and congressional Republicans are criticizing the FBI for politicizing the investigative process, Sheikhzadeh’s case puts a human face on the inherently political nature of prosecutions involving foreign powers.

    On Friday, a federal judge in Brooklyn sentenced Sheikhzadeh to three months for tax fraud and sanctions violations. The sentence was an unusually public rebuke of an unsuccessful covert operation.

    The case culminated with a rare scene in federal court: a defendant being called as a witness at his own sentencing. The 3 1/2-hour hearing provided a strange footnote to the nearly 40-year conflict between the U.S. and Iran, which has included the bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut; the downing of an Iranian civilian airliner by the U.S. Navy; Iran’s use of proxy militias in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria; the detention and disappearance of U.S. citizens in Iran; nuclear sabotage; cyber warfare; and, increasingly, the use of federal criminal prosecutions. Most notably, it raised the question of whether Sheikhzadeh’s real crime was not picking a side.

    more at https://theintercept.com/2018/02/05/...r-program-fbi/

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    Noor Salman verdict reignites criticism of FBI's recording policy

    The acquittal of Noor Salman has reignited longstanding criticism of the FBI’s policy that generally prohibits recording interviews with anyone who is not arrested.

    The Pulse gunman’s widow was not under arrest when she was questioned for 11 hours in an FBI office hours after her husband, Omar Mateen, [allegedly] attacked Pulse nightclub June 12, 2016. Agents would later testify at trial that she admitted to knowing Mateen was planning a massacre and joining him as he scouted targets.

    Agents said “it never occurred” to them to record Salman, though the policy allows for agents to seek a supervisor’s approval to record witnesses, victims and other suspects.

    The agents’ approach reflects the FBI’s outdated view of recorded interviews, some experts say. While many local law enforcement agencies require their investigators to record interactions with suspects or even witnesses, the Department of Justice only began requiring recordings of those under arrest in 2014.

    “While I cannot comment on specific cases, I can tell you that according to FBI policy, the electronic recording of non-custodial interviews is not required,” FBI spokeswoman Kelsey Pietranton said in a statement. “At this time, there are no plans to revise this policy.”

    Salman’s jury was forced to rely on an FBI agent’s transcription of her alleged confession. They weren’t convinced. Salman was acquitted Friday of aiding and abetting and obstruction of justice.

    In a statement provided to news outlets after the verdict, the foreman for Salman’s 12-member jury lamented the lack of a recording: “I wish that the FBI had recorded their interviews with Ms. Salman as there were several significant inconsistencies with the written summaries of her statements,” he wrote.

    Defense lawyer Charles Swift, who attacked the statements attributed to his client as coerced, urged the FBI to change its policy.

    “The FBI must join the rest of law enforcement ... and record all statements.
    It is ridiculous they don’t,” Swift said to reporters outside the Orlando federal courthouse after the verdict.

    Most police departments have video and audio recordings of interviews, said Richard Bennett, a criminal justice professor at American University in Washington, D.C., who works with several police agencies. He described recordings as the new DNA — evidence juries expect and want.

    Currently, 26 states and Washington, D.C., require recordings of at least some interviews.

    The FBI has long faced scrutiny over its policy
    . After prosecutors were unable to persuade a jury to sentence Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols to death in 1998, his jury’s foreman questioned why the FBI didn’t record his statement over a nine-hour interview.

    Experts say the FBI lags behind local agencies that record almost all interviews, a trend that took off in the early 2000s, said Thomas P. Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago who has petitioned state legislators and Attorney General Eric Holder to require recordings.

    “The federal government is relatively late to the game on promoting electronic recordings of custodial interviews,”
    the Harvard Law Review wrote in 2015.

    Four FBI special agents who took the stand in Salman’s trial testified she demonstrated odd behavior and said things that raised red flags to them prior to the interview in which they said she confessed.

    A proponent of recording interviews, Chief Bill Brooks of Norwood Police Department in Massachusetts allows his detectives to use their discretion when recording witnesses, something he said they typically do “where they suspect something more going on,” or think the witness might change his or her story.

    His detectives are afforded discretion FBI agents don’t have.

    Law enforcement officials, including Brooks, were hesitant at first to abandon old teachings to get a suspect’s admission before pulling out a notepad and pen to have them write what they’d just said. As a young detective in the 1980s, Brooks was trained to talk off-camera first during conferences that taught the same tactics as the FBI.

    “Get the person to admit their involvement and then memorialize the confession either through recording or have them write out the statement,” he recalled.

    It made sense back then, Brooks said. Recording devices were either a clunky camera and tripod set up facing the suspect or a tape recorder on the middle of a table that clicked off every half hour. Both were constant reminders the suspect was under interrogation, which could spook the suspect into backing out.

    Federal officials still fear recording would interfere with the agents’ rapport in an interview and that capturing and storing recordings would be logistically difficult, former U.S. Customs Special Agent Dan Eckhart said. Eckhart, now a defense attorney, spent a decade as a federal prosecutor in Orlando.

    Eckhart offered another reason agents may not want to record: The recording gives defense lawyers something to compare the agents’ notes and written reports against. If the recording and report don’t match, “Now, as a defense attorney, I’m going to attack your credibility,” Echkart said.

    But Swift did that in Salman’s trial, even without a recording.

    After the verdict, Swift said defense lawyers don’t always like what they see in recordings. But recordings also protect the agencies from accusations of wrongdoing.

    “The process being followed by the FBI is antiquated and doesn’t protect everyone anymore,
    ” Swift said.


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    FBI agents accused of torture by Qatari detainee

    FBI interrogators have been accused of carrying out torture by a prisoner who was held by the US government for 13 years on American soil, for alleged involvement in the planning of the September 11 attacks in 2001.

    Speaking for the first time after his release three years ago Qatari citizen Ali Al-Marri said the FBI agents subjected him to various forms of torture including “dry-boarding,” which is an interrogation technique that includes having socks stuffed down the throat to induce the sensation of death by asphyxiation.

    “I have never experienced death, but I assume this is the nearest thing to dying,” he told ITV News yesterday.

    “You’re suffocating, you can see your life coming out of your face and you cannot even move,” he said.

    Al-Marri alleged that threats were made against his wife and children in an attempt to force him to cooperate. Al-Marri, who denies the allegation that he was involved in terrorism, said his FBI interrogators threatened to “round up his entire family and put them in jail, even up to the point of torturing them, having them removed from their jobs and revoking their citizenship”. They also threatened to pick up his kids and place them in the cell next to him so he could hear them crying.

    One of his interrogators, former FBI Agent Ali Soufan, is alleged to have threatened to bring homosexuals from the military to molest him and “enjoy” molesting him according to a report by the advocacy group CAGE, which is leading a campaign to expose systematic torture by US officials. The report claims that FBI agents threatened to bring his wife and rape her in front of him.

    Al-Marri said the threats were made while he was kept in solitary confinement without charge for six years at a naval brig in South Carolina. FBI agents told him that he would be sent to black sites, to become a military lab rat, even though he maintained his innocence.

    In addition to the psychological operations (PSYOP), Al-Marri said he was subjected to several kinds of abuse including sleep deprivation, forced nudity, being deprived of a mattress and being forced to sleep on a metal bed for years as well as being subjected to other extreme conditions.

    According to the CAGE report, which his based on the review of 35,000 pages of documentation including prison logs, “there was a deliberate pattern on the part of the prison authorities to undermine Ali’s religious and cultural values, as well as make his life as difficult as possible”.

    “The policies implemented,” continued the report, “appear to have had the purpose of forcing compliance with the interrogators”.

    Al-Marri said he had travelled to the US with his wife and five children legally on 10 September 2001, to attend graduate school in Illinois. After the 9/11 attack he was initially charged with fraud based on information found on his computer, but the then president George W. Bush declared him an “enemy combatant”.

    In 2014 he was released. Ali Al-Marri maintains that he had no information to give the intelligence agencies in the US, and they eventually gave up attempting to coerce him into doing so. Al-Marri said that the coercive detention and his desire to see his family again led him to admit to things he otherwise never would have. At the time, he accepted that he had provided material support for terrorism, albeit without full knowledge.

    While Ali Al-Marri took a plea deal and admitted to being an unknowing part of the 9/11 plot, he now emphatically denies every allegation that he was involved in terrorism, and claims he did so due to the coercion of being in solitary confinement and suffering sustained abuse.



    "A short while ago at a press conference arranged by CAGE about Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, an individual who pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in American after being brutally tortured and abused over 13 years in solitary confinement, his White lawyer Andy Savage made this very powerful statement that each and every person needs to understand and reflect upon:

    "Just because Ali pleaded guilty (to terrorism charges) it doesn't mean he's guilty."

    Had this statement been made by a Muslim they would have been strung up and thrown to the wolves, not only by politicians and the right-wing media but also by many Muslims.

    The point is, people plead guilty to crimes for a number of reasons, especially when they are not guilty [and are tortured]. To abandon them is not from the principles of Islam. Unfortunately, or should I say fortunately, we needed a White non-Muslim to teach us this important value.

    While some from our community are ready to run to the government and throw Muslims under the bus in exchange for favours, remember that one of the most important principles of Islam is that we think good of our fellow Muslims and make excuses for them."

    - Amar Alam


    Amid Renewed Scrutiny, Qatari Man Tortured on US Soil Demands Justice

    "I do not need apologies, I need accountability," he says. "What they said and did to me was torture."


    This is the story of Ali Al-Marri

    Agents placed a SOCK in his mouth, and taped his jaw shut because he didn't want to stop reciting the QURAN - he said he felt like he was going to DIE. The man the FBI tortured, DRY BOARDED and tried to break... but FAILED.

    "My name is Ali al Marri, I have been imprisoned in the United States unjustly for 13 years. During that time I have been tortured"

    video: https://www.facebook.com/trtworld/vi...1717116765100/

    video: https://www.facebook.com/CageUK/vide...3734234306740/


    This is the result of 3 years of investigations...

    New evidence shows that Americans also used torture methods in the United States.

    We can now finally REVEAL the identity the HEROIC survivor who the FBI failed to break.

    Remember his name: ALI AL-MARRI

    Download the report here: https://www.cage.ngo/torture-in-america-fbi-dod-torture-of-ali-al-marri-on-the-charleston-naval-brig

    "I suffered from both audio and visual hallucination" and "detained in a cell without any comfort items" - Ali al-Marri

    "One of his interrogators, former FBI Agent Ali Soufan, is alleged to have threatened to bring homosexuals from the military to molest him and “enjoy” molesting him according to a report by the advocacy group CAGE"

    videos :

    They threatened to rape my wife in front of me: Ali al-Marri

    Ali Marri's lawyer describes the horrific prison conditions

    I was Tortured by the FBI: Help me get JUSTICE


    This is AbdurRahman son of Ali Al-Marri asking Allah to free his father during Umrah!

    AbdurRahman was FORCIBLY separated from his father when he was only 9 MONTHS old.

    As he GREW up never experiencing what it is like to have a FATHER

    Not only this, but you learn that your father was TORTURED and was nearly killed - The pain would be unimaginable.

    AbdurRahman set up this PETITION asking us to bring the FBI agents implicated in torturing his father to JUSTICE.

    The Message in Arabic reads:
    O’ Allah make me happy by seeing my father the night of Eid. Sooner not later.
    Son of the prisoner
    AbdurRahman al-Marri



    The evidence we have shows that these three men - which include the world renowned anti-torture advocate Ali Soufan -

    were in the room at the same time that Ali Al-Marri was DRY-BOARDED using a SOCK!

    At least ONE of them must have carried out the torture - and at best two of them watched!

    Torture is considered a WAR CRIME in international LAW

    We need to see those implicated in his TORTURE held to account.

    Now the PRESSURE is on!

    KEEP SIGNING and SHARING - The more people we have the more PRESSURE the authorities will feel to ARREST Soufan!

    SIGN HERE: https://chn.ge/2HTjsg4


    Remaining steadfast even through torture.


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    The FBI faked an entire field of forensic science

    How many wrongful convictions? Executions?

    By Nick Sorrentino on April 23, 2015

    For everyone out there with an unfailing faith in the state – we know there are a few of you left – read this.

    (From Slate)

    The Washington Post published a story so horrifying this weekend that it would stop your breath: The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

    What went wrong? The Post continues:Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratorys microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far. The shameful, horrifying errors were uncovered in a massive, three-year review by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project. Following revelations published in recent years, the two groups are helping the government with the countrys largest ever post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

    Chillingly, as the Post continues, the cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of these defendants, 14 have already been executed or died in prison.

    This is the sort of thing which makes one question the very nature of humanity. How could these “experts” live with themselves knowing that they had given “flawed testimony” and that someone was now in prison, or facing the electric chair because of this “flawed testimony”?

    In the deep recesses of one’s heart how does one deal with such a thing?

    I also wonder how many of the “experts” who gave “flawed testimony” will face justice, or even lose one dollar of their federal worker pensions?

    Click here for the article.


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