Bogus Terror: Feds Wage War Against The Rule Of Law
The Other Osama
Shahawar Matin Siraj [photo] was a young man when his family moved from Pakistan to the United States. The family had been persecuted in Pakistan because they were “too secular”, and they came to the US looking for religious freedom. But they found something else again.
Young Matin Siraj was working in his father’s store when Osama Eldawoody walked in. Eldawoody talked up Siraj, a doe-eyed dolt who was barely competent to sell Islamic books, found out that he lived across the city, that he rode the subway a lot. Eldawoody started offering Siraj rides home from work, and the two would talk in the car.
The much older Eldawoody established a surrogate-father relationship with the innocent and gullible youngster, taught him about violent jihad, told him that to be “true” to Allah he had to attack the Americans, and got him to draw a map of the Herald Square subway station. This crude drawing would be used against Siraj at trial, after Eldawoody “blew the whistle” on Siraj and his plans.
Unknown to Siraj — or to an alleged accomplice, James Elshafay — Eldawoody was working for the NYPD counter-terrorism unit.
He had been assigned to visit mosques and write down the plate numbers of the cars in the parking lots, to visit the Islamic bookstores looking for a likely mark. He couldn’t have found a better one than SIraj, who had never had a violent thought in his life — until Eldawoody took the young man “under his wing”, so to speak.
Hi Mom, it’s me. I was wondering, well, actually one of my friends was wondering, would it be ok if me and some friends blew up the subway station? Puh-leeze!
Siraj was arrested in August of 2004 and charged with plotting to bomb the Herald Square station. He was convicted in 2005, even though he had no bombs, no bomb-making materials, no knowledge of bomb-making, and even more importantly, no desire to hurt anyone. In January of 2006 he was sentenced to 30 years in prison, and at that point his family, who had been quiet thus far, started talking about entrapment.
The next day — early the very next morning — his entire family was arrested and taken into custody, charged with immigration violations. After a lengthy publicity battle, the government allowed Matin’s mother and sister out on bond, and now they work in the store, while Matin serves his time … and the father is still in prison, more than a year later.
It’s not about immigration. It’s about entrapment. The word must not be uttered.
In the Terror War against the Rule of Law, the heavy pieces are beginning to move into place, and quite visibly, too: even the so-called alternative media are starting to get a vague idea about some of it. Their coverage comes way too late, and it’s too fragmented to do any of us much good, in my opinion. But then again, I’ve been wrong before. I would love to be wrong about this.
As I was saying: a couple of long and relevant pieces have appeared recently in the quasi-dissident media, both with good points, both with gaping holes. At least they complement each other.
Mother Jones has a heavily annotated piece by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella called “Don’t Even Think About It” which describes the crackdown on your civil rights that’s sure to come as more and more resources are devoted to striking at “the roots of terrorism”. Unfortunately for you, the striking is being done by people who have no idea where the roots of terrorism lie, and/or no intention of finding out, and who certainly wouldn’t share that information with you even if they did have it. Oh well.
At Rolling Stone, Guy Lawson’s “The Fear Factory” delves into the world of fabricated terror, shining a spotlight on William “Jameel” Chrisman [photo right], the former FBI asset who entrapped Derrick Shareef [sketch below].
Lawson also points out that counter-terrorists have no intention of sharing any information with you, either.
Neither piece does a very good job at showing the “big picture”, but they both show parts of that picture fairly well.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces
Lawson’s piece focuses on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces, about which he observes:
Since 9/11, the number of such outfits across the country has tripled. With more than 2,000 FBI agents now assigned to 102 task forces, the JTTFs have effectively become a vast, quasi-secret arm of the federal government, granted sweeping new powers that outstrip those of any other law-enforcement agency. The JTTFs consist not only of local police, FBI special agents and federal investigators from Immigration and the IRS, but covert operatives from the CIA. The task forces have thus effectively destroyed the “wall” that historically existed between law enforcement and intelligence-gathering. Under the Bush administration, the JTTFs have been turned into a domestic spy agency, like Britain’s MI5 — one with the powers of arrest.
Lawson questions the practice of instigating terror plots, and points out it tends to produce the “victories” in the war on terror that are so essential to the continuation of the war.
He mentions a series of famously “foiled” “terror plots”, all of which were set up by law-enforcement agents who had “infiltrated” groups of wanna-be terrorists, or recruited such groups themselves, after which they served as agents-provocateur, organizing the alleged wannabes to work on an impossible plot for which they could then be busted.
Lawson provides a host of frightening insights into the mentality of the people who are supposed to be protecting us. One of my favorites: a telling exchange with Sgt. Paul DeRosa of the Chicago Police Department:
Chicago has one of the largest Muslim populations in the country — some 400,000, DeRosa estimates. “Experts say that between five and ten percent of Muslims are extremists. So you take it down to one percent. What’s one percent of 400,000? Forty thousand? Technically there could be 40,000 —”
“You mean 4,000,” I say.
DeRosa pauses. “Right,” he says. “Four thousand.” He forges on. “Most people who come to America who are Middle Eastern come for a good reason. But there’s still a percentage that may be here that don’t like us. They are with the extremists.”
Aside from the obvious difficulty with easy math — if that’s what it was — the question begs to be raised: If there are 4,000 extremists in Chicago alone, why aren’t any of them attacking?
The Circular Dance
Ask a question such as this in a JTTF context, and you can go around in circles forever, as illustrated by the following conversation between Lawton and Special Agent Robert Holley, a JTTF Counterterrorism Squad supervisor
When I ask what kinds of cases his CT squad has made, Holley cites the example of a local cab driver who came up on the JTTF’s radar some time back —he won’t say how or why. The man was East African, Holley says, a suspected Islamic extremist “connected to known bad guys overseas.” After being interviewed by the JTTF, the cabbie decided to leave the country. Nothing criminal had occurred, and no charges were laid. The cab driver had simply come to the attention of the JTTF, and that in itself was enough to dispose of the matter.
“Can we consider that a success because we didn’t put him in jail?” Holley asks. “Absolutely. This guy is no longer here. He is not a threat to one person in the United States.”
“Was he ever a threat?” I ask.
“We opened up an investigation.”
“But isn’t that a circular argument?”
“Was he a bomb-thrower?” Holley concedes. “Probably not. Did he want to go into a mall and attack? No.”
And that’s just the beginning of the circular dance.
The next morning, I meet with three members of the Field Intelligence Group. […] None of the three analysts in the FIG have Arabic-language skills or extensive experience in the countries they are supposed to monitor. To keep informed, they read newspapers and intelligence reports. They then issue bulletins to police departments about perceived threats.
“What is the biggest threat?” I ask.
There is a long pause.
“I think it’s very dangerous if we start to identify that,” an analyst named Julie Irvine says.
“The enemy is listening,” Assistant Special Agent in Charge Gregory Fowler adds later. “I drill that into my people’s heads every day. Foreign-intelligence agencies and terrorists are listening. The FBI is on a war footing.”
When I express skepticism at the nature of the cases being brought by the JTTF, and the wild-goose chases that seem to occupy its time, Fowler says people don’t understand the “threat stream” facing the nation. […]
“The public is never going to see the evidence we have,” Fowler says. “We don’t want to reveal our hand or tip our sources. You cannot judge the nature of the terrorist threat to the United States based on the public record.”
“But with such strictures,” I ask, “how does a citizen become informed about the threat?”
“I have access to the information,” Fowler says. “I have a lot of faith in the judgment of the common citizen. A lot of people understand the nature of the threat.”
Are you dizzy yet? People don’t understand the “threat stream” facing the nation but they do understand the nature of the threat.
And that’s good enough for you because DON’T ASK QUESTIONS!
In one of the more chilling passages, Lawton portrays the coming crackdown as a planned reaction to the next terrorist attack:
Despite the rapid and widespread proliferation of JTTFs, very little has been reported about what goes on inside the War on Terror’s domestic front. The FBI building that houses the JTTF for the Northern District of Illinois has been moved from the middle of the city to a more spacious, fortresslike building on the industrial west side of Chicago, a place out of the city’s Loop, literally and figuratively. The glass tower is surrounded by a tall metal fence, and layers upon layers of security inside and out add to the sense of siege. When Special Agent Robert Holley, who supervises the JTTF’s Squad Counterterrorism 1, offers to escort me to his office on the eighth floor, we are stopped by his superior before we even reach the hallway. The entire floor, the supervisor declares, is considered secure — there are classified documents on desks — and therefore off-limits to outsiders.
Holley, an ex-military type who is built like a bullet, rolls his eyes but complies. There is no problem finding another room for a meeting. There are acres of empty offices and cubicles in the eerily futuristic building, the premises far larger than current requirements dictate but ready for expansion should the need arise with another terrorist attack.
And so on. It’s fairly good work given the circumstances, and well worth checking out, despite its many deficiencies.
Deficiencies? For starters, it provides no annotations, it neglects some easily available relevant material, and it gives no sense of the shoe that’s about to drop on us next.
Lawson even manages a somewhat hopeful — and, to my mind, thoroughly pointless — conclusion:
There are signs, however, that judges and jurors are getting fed up with such concocted “threats.” In December, the prosecution of the “Liberty City Seven” ended in one acquittal and a hung jury for the rest of the accused. The supposed cell was accused of preparing a “full ground war” against America by bringing down the Sears Tower and other buildings. At trial, however, it emerged that the men had no operational abilities, that the plots were dreamed up at the exhortation of two paid FBI informants while smoking dope and that the group had been provided its camera, military boots and warehouse by the JTTF.
Despite 15,000 surveillance recordings of the men, including one in which they swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden, the jury refused to convict. “This was all written, produced, directed, choreographed and stage-designed by the United States government,” Albert Levin, an attorney for one of the accused, said in his closing argument.
Undeterred, the government is taking six of the men back to court. The retrial was scheduled to begin on January 22nd.
This is my main criticism of Lawson’s piece: The conviction or otherwise of the knuckleheads recruited by the counter-terrorists in this particular bogus foiled “terror plot” is not the point! The point is that the publicity generated by the arrest (forget the hearings if any, the trial if any, and the sentencing if any) is enough to “justify” the crackdown on radicalization.
The Crackdown Is Coming
For more on the coming crackdown, Mother Jones provides a resource although its piece also has serious limitations.
To wit: even though it gives a good picture of how The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act is going to take away a lot of your freedom (and that of your children, and theirs…), and even though it provides many important links, it gives no hint that the bulk of the “terror” being invoked to “justify” the new legislation was bogus.
Nonetheless, it does report:
After a couple of hearings—described by OMB Watch as “primarily one-sided, with the bulk of the witnesses representing law enforcement or federal agencies”—the bill went to the House floor, where it was it passed with only six members voting against it—three Democrats and three Republicans. (Twenty-two others were absent.) Currently, a nearly identical version of the bill awaits a vote in the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security, where it has a supporter in chair Joseph Lieberman. Committee member Barack Obama has gone on record as being undecided on the bill (after an earlier email to constituents that seemed to indicate support)—but no presidential candidate is likely to cast a vote that could be seen as soft on terrorism.
The legislation would create a National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism composed of 10 members whose vaguely defined job would be to “examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence,” and to “build upon and bring together the work of other entities” including various federal, state, and local agencies, academics, and foreign governments. The commission is charged with issuing a report after 18 months. It also directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to set up a center to study “violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism” at a U.S. university, and to “conduct a survey” of what other countries are doing to prevent homegrown terrorism.
The bill raises the potential for government encroachments on civil rights in part through the way it defines some basic terms. The text of the bill says that “the term ‘violent radicalization’ means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.” It gives no clue as to what would qualify, under this law, as an “extremist belief system,” leaving this open to broad interpretation according to the prevailing political winds.
In addition, simply by designating the “process of adopting or promoting” belief systems as a target for government concern or control, the bill moves into dangerous territory. The director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office, Caroline Fredrickson, said in a statement on the bill, “Law enforcement should focus on action, not thought. We need to worry about the people who are committing crimes rather than those who harbor beliefs that the government may consider to be extreme.”
We also need to worry about any bill that raises the potential for government encroachments on civil rights.