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US Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a 20-minute speech last week at the annual dinner of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy and civil rights organization. While speaking to a room of nearly 300 Muslim community leaders, Holder defended the sting operation in the Oregon bombing case and called it a “successful undercover operation.” The room fell silent. Holder continued by saying if you think its entrapment, you simply don’t have the facts straight.
Farhana Khera, president of Muslim Advocates and a previous guest on Law and Disorder, criticized Holder’s comments saying the FBI is getting people involved with terrorism who wouldn’t have otherwise been, and resources are being diverted that could be used for actual threats. Holder continued to justify the counterterrorism techniques including sending informers into mosques to find a would-be terrorists and creating elaborate sting operations.
We’ve looked into some of the “undercover operations” and in those cases informants were used, often immigrants offered large sums of money, or plea deals for whatever crime they committed if they agree to work with the FBI. Those cases include the Newburgh Four, the Fort Dix Five and Yassir Aref in Albany. The sting operations create fear among Muslim communities and help prop up the wars raging in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Iraq.
- There are 3 things that need to happen for someone to be entrapped by law enforcement.
- The idea of committing the crime had to come from government agents, not from the person accused of committing the crime. The government agent persuaded the person into committing the crime.
- The person wasn’t willing to commit the crime before the government agents spoke to them.
- These cases look the same because the FBI go after the same type of guy.
- I don’t like to get into the details of these cases because the narrative is controlled by the FBI.
- Eric Holder had no business being invited and headlining the event.
- The FBI has more than 100 Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which include more than 10,000 FBI agents.
- They partner with other agents, even IRS agents.
- We basically have law enforcement agents out there spying on people who’ve done nothing wrong.
- I went to this dinner thinking, what are people going to be talking about, are people going to be afraid of hate crimes? People were more worried about the FBI’s tactics than anything.
- The concern is, instead of getting them the help that they need, and preventing an incident and hopefully bettering the community for that, what we’re seeing is the FBI converting them into operational terrorists
- One of the troubles of the War on Terror is that we can’t prove whether its successful or not but we want to continue to spend money on it.
- This type of incident justifies that type of offense. The counterproductive measure here is that it puts the community on guard.
- Instead of building relationships with the community they’re trying to work with, they’re burning bridges. This conversation about informants, not knowing who you can trust or who you can candidly speak with, is reminiscent of some of the regimes that people were escaping.
- It’s nothing new. We continue to fall into these patterns.
- An important thing for us as activists and advocates for the community is to insure we’re making these parallels and building coalitions based on that.
- In this last year, people have started to say that it feels as though it’s as bad here as it was a year ago.
- The anti-Muslim sentiment is stronger now in 2010 than it was in 2001.
Guest – former Law and Disorder co-host Dalia Hashad, attorney and independent consultant specializing in human rights and civil rights. She has run programs at Amnesty International and the ACLU, and she has served as a human rights legal adviser in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. At Amnesty International, Ms. Hashad was the Director of the USA Program, focusing on racial profiling, criminal justice and national security. She also served as AIUSA’s policy specialist in global identity discrimination, addressing issues of race, sexual orientation, religion and gender.
Guest – Attorney Zahra Billoo, executive director of CAIR San Francisco Bay Area (the Council on American-Islamic Relations). Zahra started as an intern for a local chapter of the California Faculty Association, a labor union for California State University (CSU) faculty members. Zahra has also worked as Field Organizer for the Service Employees International Union, and was awarded Peggy Browning Fund Fellowship to work with the National Employment Law Project. Zahra graduated Cum Laude from California State University, Long Beach with a B.S. in Human Resources Management and B.A. in Political Science. She completed her law degree at the University of California, Hastings College of Law.
We’ve discussed the many cases of FBI entrapment here on the show and we are delighted to have with us Big Noise filmmaker and producer for Democracy Now!, Anjali Kamat. Anjali had recently finished the film titled Entrapped, a documentary examining the role of the FBI and government agencies funding and entrapping people by infiltrating specific ethnic and religious communities. She had traveled through Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey interviewing families of those Muslim men arrested on terrorism charges. Recent cases such as the Fort Dix Five, the Newburgh Four and Yassin Aref in Albany are highlighted in the film.
- I did the film as a piece of investigative reporting for Democracy Now! along with Big Noise Films. It’s available at Big Noise Films and Democracy Now!
- We had a screening at a restaurant off of Coney Island Avenue, hosted by the Coney Island Avenue Project.
- When these cases come about, they’re often talked about as sting operations. The FBI has been doing undercover work and they discovered this terrorist plot.
- They’re on the evening news, talking about how much safer we all are now as a result of the FBI’s excellent work.
- When you dig a little deeper you realize it’s not really a sting, in most cases. It can be called entrapment.
- Informants: In the cases I looked at, there was a Pakistani immigrant and an Egyptian immigrant, they are offered large sums of money, offered at times a plea deal for whatever crime they committed if they agree to work for the FBI.
- There are 3 cases I looked at, 3 out of dozens of cases. The first case took place in Albany in 2004 that involves a Bangladeshi pizza owner and a Kurdish imam. They were both convicted and their prison time was reduced from 30 years to 15 years, because the case was very thin and there was an outpouring of community support.
- The second case is the Fort Dix case, which took place in Pennsylvania. All five of the men were convicted. They are serving life sentences. Four out of the five men were ethnic Albanians from Macedonia. They were construction workers, their father had a roofing business. The fourth was a Palestinian-American. Informant encouraged Palestinian-American to download more and more jihadi videos.
- These videos are key because they are what was shown at the trial to the jury. The third case, the sentencing hasn’t happened yet. The Newburgh Four.
- On the domestic front it allows the government to show its being tough on terror at a time when there is no evidence of where Osama Bin Laden is. At a time when the Democrats seem very weak on a number of fronts.
- Another use of this is to create fear among Muslim communities. Now there’s a great sense of doubt whenever someone new comes into the community. Could this person be a government informant?
- It helps justify the wars that are continuing abroad.
Guest – Anjali Kamat, independent radio and print journalist from south India. She has lived in Egypt and Jordan and reported on movements for justice across the Middle East and South Asia. Her work has appeared in Corpwatch, Left Turn, and Samar magazine, and national newspapers in India and Egypt (The Hindu, Frontline, Outlook, and Al-Ahram Weekly). In addition to producing Democracy Now!, she co-hosts and co-produces a weekly radio show on WBAI called Global Movements, Urban Struggles.