The FBI and major media outlets yesterday trumpeted the agency’s latest counterterrorism triumph: the arrest of three Brooklyn men, ages 19 to 30, on charges of conspiring to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS (photo of joint FBI/NYPD press conference, above). As my colleague Murtaza Hussain ably documents, “it appears that none of the three men was in any condition to travel or support the Islamic State, without help from the FBI informant.” One of the frightening terrorist villains told the FBI informant that, beyond having no money, he had encountered a significant problem in following through on the FBI’s plot: his mom had taken away his passport. Noting the bizarre and unhinged ranting of one of the suspects, Hussain noted on Twitter that this case “sounds like another victory for the FBI over the mentally ill.”
In this regard, this latest arrest appears to be quite similar to the overwhelming majority of terrorism arrests the FBI has proudly touted over the last decade. As my colleague Andrew Fishman and I wrote last month — after the FBI manipulated a 20-year-old loner who lived with his parents into allegedly agreeing to join an FBI-created plot to attack the Capitol — these cases follow a very clear pattern:
The known facts from this latest case seem to fit well within a now-familiar FBI pattern whereby the agency does not disrupt planned domestic terror attacks but rather creates them, then publicly praises itself for stopping its own plots.
First, they target a Muslim: not due to any evidence of intent or capability to engage in terrorism, but rather for the “radical” political views he expresses. In most cases, the Muslim targeted by the FBI is a very young (late teens, early 20s), adrift, unemployed loner who has shown no signs of mastering basic life functions, let alone carrying out a serious terror attack, and has no known involvement with actual terrorist groups.
They then find another Muslim who is highly motivated to help disrupt a “terror plot”: either because they’re being paid substantial sums of money by the FBI or because (as appears to be the case here) they are charged with some unrelated crime and are desperate to please the FBI in exchange for leniency (or both). The FBI then gives the informant a detailed attack plan, and sometimes even the money and other instruments to carry it out, and the informant then shares all of that with the target. Typically, the informant also induces, lures, cajoles, and persuades the target to agree to carry out the FBI-designed plot. In some instances where the target refuses to go along, they have their informant offer huge cash inducements to the impoverished target.
Once they finally get the target to agree, the FBI swoops in at the last minute, arrests the target, issues a press release praising themselves for disrupting a dangerous attack (which it conceived of, funded, and recruited the operatives for), and the DOJ and federal judges send their target to prison for years or even decades (where they are kept in special GITMO-like units). Subservient U.S. courts uphold the charges by applying such a broad and permissive interpretation of “entrapment” that it could almost never be successfully invoked.
The FBI Wednesday announced the arrest of three men it alleges planned to help the Islamic State, news that at first appeared to confirm fears that radical extremism is spreading to the United States.
“The flow of foreign fighters to Syria represents an evolving threat to our country and to our allies,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a press release announcing the arrests. “We will vigorously prosecute those who attempt to travel to Syria to wage violent jihad on behalf of ISIL and those who support them.”
Left unmentioned in the FBI statement, however, is the integral role a paid informant appears to have played in generating the charges against the men, and helping turn a fantastical “plot” into something even remotely tangible. It appears that none of the three men was in any condition to travel or support the Islamic State, without help from the FBI informant.
On Feb. 25, two Brooklyn men were arrested following FBI and New York Police Department anti-terror raids and charged with providing “material support” to the Islamic State. Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, and Akhror Saidakhmetov 19, are alleged to have made arrangements to travel to Syria, and also to have expressed willingness to conduct attacks in the United States “if ordered to do so” by the group. A third man, Abror Habibov, 30, was arrested in Florida and charged with helping provide financial support for their travel plans.
According to the criminal complaint against the three, the FBI first began investigating Juraboev after he made postings on Uzbek-language social media sites in August 2014 praising the Islamic State and offering to pledge allegiance to them. While these postings were made anonymously, Juraboev neglected to conceal his IP address which led to him being quickly identified by authorities.
On Aug. 15, 2014, Juraboev was visited at a Brooklyn residence by FBI agents; he openly expressed his desire to join Islamic State to them. He is said to have told the agents he desired to travel and join the group, but that “he currently lacked the means to go there.” Juraboev is also said to have told the FBI agents in this interview of his desire to kill President Obama, but stated that he does not have any “means or imminent plans to do so.”
Three days after that initial visit, FBI agents visited him again; he reiterated these violent and criminal desires, stating his willingness to kill President Obama if he were ordered to do so by any member of Islamic State, and also telling the agents he was willing to “plant a bomb on Coney Island if so ordered by ISIL”.