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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Terror Stings Breed Entrapment, Study Says

MANHATTAN (CN) - A study from New York University's Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, profiling three terrorism cases in New York and New Jersey, blasts the "myth" of the homegrown threat of Islamic radicalization and says that "government-manufactured" terrorism cases pose "intolerable threats to basic human rights across the country."

Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Police Department Paul J. Browne dismissed the report's "biased polemics" in an emailed statement.

"The accusations are false and the product of sloppy and biased polemics that don't merit the term 'research' or association with NYU or any other university worthy of the name," Browne wrote.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the study since he said he had not yet reviewed it, but may comment at such time.

All three of the cases in the 92-page report - called "Targeted and Entrapped: Manufacturing the 'Homegrown Threat' in the United States" - relied on evidence from FBI informants that recruited Muslims to shoot, bomb or destroy targets selected by the agents.

"The government played a significant role in instigating and devising the three plots featured in this Report - plots the government then 'foiled' and charged the defendants with," according to the study. "The defendants in these cases were all convicted and are facing prison sentences of 25 years to life."

The first of three cases is the so-called Newburgh Four, residents of the impoverished city in Orange County, N.Y., ensnared for plotting to blow up synagogues and shoot down military airplanes. They say an FBI informant picked the targets, provided mock weapons and promised them $250,000, along with other material and afterlife rewards.

The men - James Cromitie, David William, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payan - failed to convince the jury that they were entrapped and were convicted in October.

A federal judge dismissed their appeals, despite finding there was "some truth" to their position that the "Government 'created the criminal and manufactured the crime.'"

The second case that the report profiles involves the New Jersey residents known to their supporters as the Fort Dix Five, who came under FBI surveillance after a Circuit City clerk noticed a video in which a man with a rifle shouted "Allahu Akbar."

Three brothers Eljvir, Drikan and Shain Duka say it was footage of a hunting trip in the Poconos. The video also captured them riding horses, skiing and playing paintball, according to the report.

But the home movie prompted an investigation involving two informants who they say goaded them into making statements and collecting literature that would connect them with a plot to attack the Fort Dix military base.

Unlike the Newburgh Four, however, the Duka brothers did not use an entrapment defense. They said the informant never even told them about the conspiracy, the report states.

The jury did not believe them and returned guilty verdicts on Dec. 22, 2008.

According to the final case of the report, an New York Police Department informant made more than 575 visits to mosques before meeting would-be Herald Square bomber Shahawar Matin Siraj.

Before ensnaring Siraj, the informant failed to interest his imam in radicalism, but he tried to interest Siraj in jihad for months by showing him photos of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisoners, the report states.

Siraj "finally crumbled" after seeing pictures of young Iraqi girls being threatened and raped, and he agreed to be a lookout for the bombing of an unoccupied subway station provided there was "no killing," according to the report.

Siraj's entrapment defense failed, and he is currently serving a 30-year sentence.

Deputy Commissioner Browne bristled at the idea that Herald Square plot was "government-manufactured."

"Tell the jury and judge who found the would-be bomber of Herald Square guilty and sentenced him to 30 years that the case was 'manufactured,'" Browne told Courthouse News in the email. "The fact is the home-grown threat is real, and the NYPD and FBI are saving lives by stopping extremists who are more than willing to kill New Yorkers and other Americans."

The NYU study, however, calls the "home-grown threat" a "myth" perpetuated by the 2007 NYPD report "Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat," which identified "[w]earing traditional Islamic clothing [and] growing a beard" as signs of the "self-identification" phase of radicalization.

The authors say that dozens of other cases may involve religious profiling, untrained informants or government-created terror plots.

"Our research came across at least 20 other terrorism prosecutions in recent years against Muslim defendants that involved some combination of paid informants, selection for investigation based on perceived religious identity, or a plot that was created by the government," the report states, in three pages of citations.

Defense attorneys for the Newburgh Four will likely continue their entrapment and profiling claims at their clients' sentencing, which is scheduled for June 7.

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