Report: Terrorism Prosecutions Often an ‘Illusion’


Surveillance of the 'Newburgh Four

In the years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, informants for the Federal Bureau of Investigation often recruited and paid Muslims — some with mental disabilities — to participate in terrorist attacks planned by informants, and then busted the recruits in sting operations. according to a new report by Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group.

Researchers from Human Rights Watch and the Columbia University Law School examined 27 cases and interviewed 215 people associated with the cases, including defendants and their relatives, lawyers, prosecutors and judges.

While many cases targeted people who were actively planning terror attacks, others targeted people who did not appear to be plotting or financing attacks when the government began investigating them.

Half of the cases reviewed for the report resulted from a sting operation. In 30 percent of those cases an undercover agent was actively involved in developing the terrorist plot.

Researchers found that the FBI often targeted “vulnerable people” with mental disabilities. The report highlighted the infamous “Newburgh Four” case, in which four defendants were convicted of plotting to blow up two synagogues in the Bronx, NY.

The federal judge in that case criticized the FBI's recruitment of the defendants, in particular the “ringleader,” James Cromitie.

“Only the government could have made a terrorist out of Mr. Cromitie, whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in scope,” Judge Colleen McMahon said during sentencing.

In another case highlighted by the report, Rezwan Ferdaus pled guilty to attempting to blow up a federal building and was sentenced to 17 years in prison. The FBI targeted him for a sting operation and devised a plan with him to attack the Pentagon and US Capitol, even as 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,” according to the report.

Read the full report HERE.

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