Privacy SOS

“Inform or be deported” – this is what he FBI has been telling Muslims, according to an article in the July 11, 2006 Wall Street Journal.  There have been instances of people having their green cards taken by the FBI and then told they would only get them back if they agreed to inform on fellow Muslims.  If not, they would be sent back to their countries of origin.

Imams have been threatened with deportation for refusing to work for the FBI.   Among them Is Imam Foad Farahi, an asylum seeker who was offered residency and money to report on specific people in the Miami area.  When he refused, he was given the choice of leaving the country voluntarily or being charged with terrorism.

Informers have been accused of acting as agents provocateurs. In some instances they have engineered “terrorism plots,” luring often clueless participants with promises of wealth and weapons, and keeping them on the “jihadist” path when their interest in the mission threatened to peter out.  Paid FBI informers have provided sometimes reluctant conspirators with the know how and (fake) bombs in tightly stage managed “plots” that capture the headlines and demonstrate the FBI is doing its job. 

Among the most hapless were the ‘homegrown terrorists’ known as the Liberty City 7, who were not Muslim although they were initially presented as such.  Living in an impoverished Miami neighborhood, this group of poor Haitian immigrants and Haitian-Americans attended the Moorish Science Temple, which was infiltrated by an informant known as ‘Brother Mohammed’.  He promised their leader $50,000 in cash, firearms and other equipment if the group would agree to blow up federal buildings and the Sears Tower in Chicago.  Even though the FBI dubbed the plot ‘aspirational rather than operational’, federal prosecutors pursued the men relentlessly.  In 2009, four years after they were arrested, and after two trials ended in hung juries, the federal government convened a third trial and finally got a jury to agree to convict five of the seven men.

A New York synagogue and Jewish Center and the fuel pipes supplying Kennedy International Airport were the targets of a May 2009 ‘homegrown terrorist’ plot.   It involved four destitute ex-cons in impoverished Newburgh, New York, one of whom suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and none of whom were practicing Muslims. They were given cash, food, rent money, drugs, cell phones, a camera and disabled explosive devices including a Stinger missile by an FBI informant who had been convicted of identity fraud and was hoping for a reduced sentence and paid $100,000 for his efforts. The plot commanded considerable media and political attention when it was “disrupted.”            

In perhaps the most bizarre case, Ahmad Niazi, a worshipper at a mosque in Irvine, California, reported to the FBI that someone at the mosque was making overtly jihadist statements.  That someone turned out to be a paid FBI informant, Craig Monteilh, a.k.a Farouk al-Aziz, who later claimed to have spied for the FBI at several mosques around Southern California.  The mosque got a restraining order against him.  Then the FBI asked Niazi to become an informant, and he refused – whereupon an FBI agent allegedly said he would make his life a “living hell.” Niazi was subsequently charged with perjury, fraud and making false statements. As for Monteilh, he is now suing both the Irvine police and the FBI – the later for failing to pay him the $100,000 he says he was promised.

The matter did not end there. The FBI asked Niazi to become an informant, and he refused – whereupon an FBI agent allegedly said he would make his life a “living hell.” Niazi was subsequently charged with perjury, fraud and making false statements.  Monteilh meanwhile brought a $10 million lawsuit against his former bosses, alleging his work with the bureau had put his life in danger and when his cover was blown he was “cut loose” rather than being placed in protective custody.  

In February 2011, the ACLU brought a lawsuit against the FBI on behalf of Muslim plaintiffs, alleging that Monteilh was ordered by the FBI to carry out “indiscriminant surveillance” of Muslims in violation of their right to freedom of religion. The lawsuit claims that the FBI told Monteilh that “Islam was a threat to America’s national security.”

Local police departments have also recruited informers who have proved zealous in their efforts to conjure up plots.  Osama Eldawoody, an Egyptian immigrant hired as an informant by the New York Police Department, was the subject of a May 29, 2007 Washington Post profile headlined: “The Informer: Behind the Scenes, or Setting the Stage?” 

Eldawoody was involved in getting Shahaawar Siraj sentenced to 30 years for plotting to bomb a subway station.  Siraj’s friends say that when he was upset by the war in Iraq and the images from Abu Ghraib, Eldawoody posed as his friend and said he would get him explosives.  In the last recorded video taken inside Eldawoody’s car, Siraj said he didn’t want to place the bomb himself and would have to ask his mother for her advice.   Eldawoody was paid $25,000 during the time it took to engineer the bomb plot, and $75,000 during the 20 months leading up to Siraj’s trial.  Reportedly, at least three other undercover men were working in the mosque where Siraj prayed.

Among recent high profile cases involving informers and claims of entrapment was the November 2010 plot to bomb a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon.  The alleged perpetrator, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali teenager who had been under federal surveillance for six months, was given a dud bomb by an undercover FBI agent.  Two days after his arrest, there was an arson attack on a nearby Islamic Center.  

In another case, the lawyer for 23-year-old Antonio Martinez claims his client would not “have had any ability whatsoever to carry out any kind of plan” without the assistance of an FBI informant.   Martinez, a recent convert to Islam, was arrested in an early December 2010 sting operation as he was trying to detonate a fake bomb outside a Baltimore military recruitment center.   The case of Farooque Ahmed, a Pakistani-born US citizen charged with attempting to help people he thought were al-Qaeda operatives bomb the Washington DC metro, has also raised questions of entrapment.

A report by New York University’s Center for Law and Security has found that undercover agents or informants were relied on in 62 percent of the 156 most significant anti-terrorism prosecutions since 9/11.

For information on cases involving informers check out this website.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.