Homegrown or Home-Concocted?

This story has been bugging me since it first broke about a week ago. Not the facts, but the way it was hyped in the press. The first headline I saw included the words “jihad plot.” This kind of sensationalist coverage is something I’ve been frustrated by for years.

Huffington Post has an excellent post by Ahmed Rehad about this latest FBI arrest. Here are some highlights:

At first glance, media headlines gave the impression of a contiguous homegrown “Islamic” terrorist threat, a local outgrowth of the ominous global “Jihadi” network, secretly thriving in our midst but foiled by the FBI at the last minute. It had Islam written all over it, once again implicating American Muslims and spiking fears and suspicion that ours is a problem community, part of a foreign civilization ever at odds with the West, that wants to destroy the United States from within.

But as more facts have begun to emerge, it turns out that the suspects, one of whom is a crack addict and the other with a history of mental illness, once again, are troubled oddballs operating well outside the mainstream of the American Muslim community and its institutions, with no ties and no support from Mosques, Imams, community leaders, members at large, or even real terrorist threats like Al-Qaeda. Once again, however, it turns out that the radicalization “tipping factor”, if you will, was none other than a paid government agent-provocateur.

The suspects are petty career criminals with lengthy criminal records (one of them was arrested 27 times); most of their crimes were committed before they converted to Islam in jail.

Were they perhaps Christians at that time?

The suspects appear to be gullible and naive — hardly the breed of ruthless masterminds that the global terrorist networks like Al Qaeda tend to recruit and deploy. The New York Post called them “a bunch of terror dummies” while the AP describes them as “down-and-out ex-convicts living on the margins in a faded industrial city.”

The sister of another one of the men, James Cromitie, called him “the stupidest man on the planet.” The lawyer of a third man, Laguerre Payen, described his client as “intellectually challenged” stating that he had “a very low borderline IQ.” Indeed, Payen, who was on medication for schizophrenia, was deemed too insane to be deported after a previous assault conviction.

The suspects appear to have a weak — even perverse — understanding of Islam. Salahuddin Muhammad, the Imam of the mosque that one of the men visited, publicly challenged him on his incorrect understanding of Islam stating that the man had “a fundamental lack of knowledge of Islam.”

Media reports reveal that the informant is a man who has had his own troubles with the law and had been coaxed into working as an informant in order to avoid deportation. He would drive up in his expensive car to the Mosque and offer community members free dinners, cash, or jobs to try to lure them into his fictional Pakistani terrorist connections.

Mosque members seemed to suspect that he was a possible agent-provocateur and were creeped out by his aberrant ways and views. But why was he not reported? Imam Muhammad said he wondered whether he should have done anything differently once he had suspicions about the informant who went by “Maqsood.”

“How do you go to the government about the government?” he asked.

Exactly. What are you supposed to do in a situation like that? Who do you contact? Can you possibly think it’s going to go well for you?

But this debate is not so much about the Bronx four, their fates are for the courts to decide. It is, in the end, about understanding the nature of the real terrorist threat against us and raising responsible objections against self-deluding initiatives that seem to seek terror-case quotas by entrapping “intellectually challenged” outcasts and then deceptively marketing their isolated cases as evidence of an imminent and contiguous global threat with homegrown components.

The Times Online had a terrific headline: FBI ‘lured dimwits’ into terror plot.

Highlights:

“This whole operation was a foolish waste of time and money,” claimed Terence Kindlon, a defence lawyer who represented the last terror suspect to be tried in New York state. “It is almost as if the FBI cooked up the plot and found four idiots to install as defendants.”

“One question [about the synagogue case] that has to be answered is: did the informant go in and enlist people who were otherwise not considering trouble ?” said Kevin Luibrand, who represented a Muslim businessman caught up in another FBI sting three years ago. “Did the government induce someone to commit a crime?”

The other question that US security experts were debating was how much had been achieved by assigning more than 100 agents to a year-long investigation of three petty criminals and a mentally ill Haitian immigrant, none of whom had any connection with any known terrorist group. “They were all unsophisticated dimwits,” said Kindlon.

“Did they really need all those men in ninja suits with M16 rifles to arrest four idiots?” wondered Kindlon, a former marine sergeant whose main concern is that real terrorists may be plotting undisturbed while domestic US agencies focus on fantasists. “Somewhere, someone in Al-Qaeda must be laughing.”

Concern about the FBI’s tactics heightened after Salahuddin Mustafa Muhammad, imam at the Masjid al-Ikhlas mosque in Newburgh, revealed that when Hussain first came to the mosque and started talking about jihad (holy war) – apparently to identify radical elements for his FBI handlers – several members immediately concluded that he must be a government agent.

The FBI is known to have infiltrated mosques, and many anti-terrorist experts believe a mosque is the last place a serious Islamic terrorist would plot an attack. “Anyone with any smarts knew to stay away from [Hussain],” said Muhammad. Yet nobody will accuse Cromitie and his cohorts of being smart.

Meanwhile, the white guy who manufactured ricin and took it to Vegas was assessed to be no threat, the white guy who was building a dirty bomb at home (who is admittedly dead now) was assessed as not a threat, and the white boys who planned to assassinate President Obama were laughed out of the newspapers.

Described by the authorities as neo-Nazis, Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman allegedly planned a deadly rampage through southern states, beheading 14 of their victims in a brutal homage to skinhead culture before ultimately gunning down the man who hopes to become America’s first black president.

I surely hope the FBI is as serious about infiltrating white groups as it groups of swarthy folks.

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Filed under domestic terrorism, Islamic relations

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