The US government sponsored jihadist menace

Summary:  Much of our home-grown terrorism results from the government’s careful nurturing, clearly seen in the many cases since 9-11.  Not “stings” using “informants, but incitement (or even entrapment) by agents provocateur.  It’s yielded a full harvest:  a fearful and tame public.  Here are some of the stories; the pattern tells the tale.

Domestic jihadist terrorists since 9-11 comes in several forms.  Most of these examples are from the Congressional Research Services report “American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat” (20 September 2010).

  1. Trained terrorists working for jihadist groups (e.g., David Headley and the Mumbai attack, Bryant Neal Vinas)
  2. Trained terrorists not directly working for terrorists, such as Nidal Malik Hasan (Major, US Army).
  3. Poorly trained and equipped people working for jihadist groups (e.g., Najibullah Zari, Richard Reid, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab).
  4. Loner or small groups, usually incompetent losers, such as Faisal Shahzad (using inert fertilizer) Tarek MehannaMichael Finton, and Abulhakim Muhammad.
  5. Jihadists planning to leave the US to fight elsewhere (e.g., Daniel Patrick Boyd, Jehad Mostafa, Shaker Masri, Zachary Chesser, 14 Minnesotans), or apprehended abroad (e.g., 5 Virginians in Pakistan, Daniel Maldonado in Keyna).  Somalia is the most common target.
  6. Individuals or small groups aided by agents of the US government; some combination of encouragement, funding and providing munitions.  Such as the Newburgh Four, the JFK International bomb plot, Raja Lahrasib Khan, the Fort Dix attack plot, Derrick Shareef, Raja Lahrasib Khan, the Liberty City Seven, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, and Mohamed Osman Mohamud.

Most (not all) of these are small scale terrorism, less than that endemic in US history.  Such as the South’s post-Reconstruction insurgency, oppressing Blacks for the century following the Civil War.  The use of armed forces to break unions, commonplace until the New Deal.  The anarchistsRace riots.  Violence by groups on the left and right (continuing today by the greens and anti-abortion groups).

Looking at the numbers in each category, many are jihadists seeking to fight elsewhere (illegal but not likely significant; most often in Somalia) or small scale fund-raising — neither terrorism in the usual sense (for decades the US turned a blind eye to the IRA’s fund raising activities in the US).

Some of the jihadist prosecutions are old-fashioned attempts to railroad convictions, such as the Detroit terrorists — overturned after disclosure of widespread government misconduct (see articles here and here).

The last category (#6) is the most prolematic,  government-incited terrorism using people who probably pose no danger without the State’s encouragement and funding.   While often called stings, these look more like entrapment (in the commonplace sense; the legal bar to claim entrapment is high).  The government’s witnesses are called informants but look like agents provocateur.  They differ from standard police informants who work against professional criminals.  How many of these terrorists would have taken action without the government’s encouragement and assistance?

Of course these people are guilty.  Putting them behind bars provides some small degree of added safety to the public (at great cost, diverting resources from other crimes), but that might be a minor effect.  Most of these prosecutions were accompanied by bombastic statements of government officials seeking to advance their careers and incite a climate of fear.  It’s a technique the US government has often employed during the past century, arousing fears in the public of violent blacks and the red menace.

“It’s hard to envision a more chilling plot,”
— Eric Snyder, assistant United States attorney, in court grossly exaggerating the threat posed by the Newburgh Four (New York Times)

“If it were not for me,’ Hoover told a State Department official in 1963, “there would not be a Communist Party of the United States. Because I’ve financed the Communist Party.
— Anthony Summers, Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover (1993)

The following are stories involving varying degrees of involvement by agents provocateur, finding and nurturing small seeds of terrorism.   For a deeper look at this madness see “The Fear Factory“, Guy Lawson, Rolling Stone, 2 January 2008 (things have grown worse since then).


  1. Derrick Shareef
  2. Hosam Smadi
  3. Raja Lahrasib Khan
  4. The Newburgh Four
  5. Ahmadullah Sais Niazi
  6. The JFK International Bomb Plot
  7. Farooque Ahmed
  8. Mohamed Osman Mohamud — the latest “sting”

(1)  Derrick Shareef

From the CRS report (also see this Chicago Tribune article:  “But federal agents and an undercover informant followed him from the plot’s outset, U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald said Friday. … throughout the plot, he never had any weapons or the money to obtain them, Fitzgerald said.”)

The case began in September 2006, when the FBI assigned a cooperating witness, William “Jamaal” Chrisman, to befriend Shareef. Chrisman had converted to Islam in prison where he served time for armed robbery and car theft convictions. .. They met at the video store where Shareef was working and hours later moved into Chrisman’s home. According to Chrisman, “He was supposed to move in with his manager. I told him he was better off staying with me, a Muslim staying with a Muslim.”  Shareef was unaware that Chrisman was secretly recording their conversations which included his confiding to Chrisman that he wanted to commit acts of violent jihad against civilians. … Shareef also told Chrisman that he wanted to obtain weapons to commit violent jihad. Chrisman said he had a friend who could do so and would introduce them. However, the “friend” was an undercover FBI agent.

(2)  Hosam Maher Husein Smadi

Bomb plot targeting Dallas skyscraper foiled“, Dallas Morning News, 26 September 2009

Smadi, a Jordanian citizen illegally living in the U.S. in the small town of Italy, about 45 miles south of Dallas, pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and expressed a desire to kill Americans, authorities said.  In conversations with agents posing as members of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell, Smadi said he came to the U.S. to wage jihad, or holy war. He told agents he wanted to target military recruitment centers, but eventually settled on financial institutions.  “I want to destroy … targets … everything that helps America on its war on Arabs will be targeted,” he told undercover agents in May.

The sting culminated in Thursday’s arrest after Smadi parked a 2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac , supplied by the FBI, in the underground parking garage of Fountain Place, a 60-story, emerald-green glass office tower … Inside the SUV was a fake bomb, designed to appear similar to one used by Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.  Authorities say Smadi thought he could detonate it with a cellphone. After parking the vehicle, he got into another vehicle with one of the agents, and they drove several blocks away.  An agent offered Smadi earplugs, but he declined, “indicating that he wanted to hear the blast,” authorities said. He then dialed the phone, thinking it would trigger the bomb, authorities said. Instead, the agents took him into custody.

… Counterterrorism officials heralded the Dallas arrest as an example of the proactive effectiveness of a reorganized FBI in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.  “A coordinated undercover law enforcement action was able to thwart his efforts and ensure no one was harmed,” said David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security in Washington.  This case serves as a reminder “of the continuing threats of terrorism we face as a nation and the FBI’s resolve to meet those threats,” said Robert Casey, special agent in charge of the Dallas FBI office.

… Late Thursday, the FBI told key lawmakers that the suspect seems to have acted alone.

… According to AFP, Hosam Smadi had an arrest record back home. Jordanian Information Minister Nabil Sharif said the 19-year-old was “put at a correctional facility in 2004 after he was arrested over theft and street-begging.”

Dallas bombing plotter Hosam Smadi sentenced to 24 years in prison“, Dallas Morning News, 20 October 2010

Fleury gave an impassioned closing argument to the judge Tuesday, listing several instances in his client’s correspondence where undercover operatives appeared to prompt a reluctant Smadi to kill. Fleury said that under the tutelage and “aggressive encouragement” of federal agents, Smadi “evolved” from a likable, popular young man who told agents he wished no harm on innocent women and children, into a would-be mass murderer.

“They praise him any time he says he wants to go down the path of violent jihad,” Fleury said. During the months of interaction, FBI intelligence analysts assessed Smadi’s behavior and difficult family background to help tailor the undercover operatives’ correspondence with him, Fleury said. In the absence of a real family, Smadi began to think of “Hussein,” one of the Arabic-speaking undercover operatives, as a brother. Fleury said his undercover “brethren” told Smadi, “Your mother is pleased with you,” and they “insisted” that he pick a bombing target. When Smadi responded, “I have no plan,” Fleury said one of the operatives told him, “the clock is ticking.” “Why do you need to do this if the person is already ready for this?” Fleury asked.

(3)  Raja Lahrasib Khan

Chicago Terrorism Suspect Pleads Not Guilty“, AP,  5 April 2010

A Chicago cab driver pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he attempted to aid al-Qaida by sending money to a terrorist leader believed to be in Pakistan. … On March 17, Khan accepted $1,000 from the undercover agent and assured him that the money would be used to purchase weapons and possibly other supplies, the complaint said.

(4)  The Newburgh Four

In Bronx Bomb Case, Missteps Caught on Tape , New York Times, 21 May 2009 — Obvious violent intent by total incompetents (see here for details).

They were four ex-convicts — one a crack addict, another whose most recent arrest involved snatching purses — and they gathered their terror tools as they went.  They bought cellphones, the authorities said; they bought a camera in a Wal-Mart to take photographs of the synagogues in New York City that they wanted to blow up. When their attempt to buy guns in Newburgh, N.Y., fell through — their gun dealer told them she had sold out — they drove downstate, buying a $700 pistol from a Bloods gang leader in Brooklyn.

Remarkably, vast passages of the conspiracy the federal authorities described — the talk of killing Jews, the testing of the men’s would-be weaponry — played out on a veritable soundstage of hidden cameras and secret microphones, and involved material {the warehouse and bombs} provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A house in Newburgh, a storage facility in Stamford, the planting of the would-be bombs in the Bronx neighborhood of Riverdale — everything was recorded, according to the complaint.

… Law enforcement officials initially said the four men were Muslims, but their religious backgrounds remained uncertain Thursday. Mr. Payen reported himself to be Catholic during his 15-month prison sentence that ended in 2005, according to a state corrections official. Mr. Cromitie and Onta Williams both identified themselves as Baptists in prison records, although Mr. Cromitie changed his listed religion to Muslim upon his last two incarcerations; David Williams reported no religious affiliation.

… Mr. Cromitie was there last June, and he met a stranger. He had no way of knowing that the stranger’s path to the mosque began in 2002, when he was arrested on federal charges of identity theft. He was sentenced to five years’ probation, and became a confidential informant for the F.B.I. He began showing up at the mosque in Newburgh around 2007, Mr. Muhammad said. … Mr. Muhammad said members of his congregation told him the man he believed was the informant offered at least one of them a substantial amount of money to join his “team.”

(5)  Ahmadullah Sais Niazi

Role of the government’s agent provocear in the case against Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, Los Angeles Times, 26 Feburary 2009

Ayloush {executive director of CAIR} said he had received numerous complaints from Muslims in 2007 that Monteilh was aggressively promoting terrorist plots and trying to recruit others to join him. Citing such behavior and saying that it made members of the mosque feel threatened, the Islamic Center of Irvine won a temporary restraining order in June 2007 that barred Monteilh from the mosque. Monteilh filed a petition Wednesday to lift the restraining order, saying that he wanted to clear his name from any suspicion of terrorist activity. He had not contested the original order, he said, because he had been instructed by the FBI not to testify at the hearing. But he said he was speaking out now because the FBI had allegedly violated pledges to remove the restraining order, place him in a witness protection program, give him a final payment of $100,000 and grant other benefits in an exit package.

… he first began working for the FBI in late 2003 as an informant on white supremacist and narcotics cases after making connections with the Aryan Brotherhood during a prison stint for forgery. In 2006, he alleges, he agreed to infiltrate mosques.  During two weeks of training, Monteilh said in an interview with The Times, he was taught about Islam, Arabic, self-defense and weapons. He said he was outfitted with video and audio recording devices and given specific names of people to monitor. Monteilh said he also was instructed to progress slowly in his embrace of Islam to make his conversion seem natural — wearing Western clothes initially and then eventually growing a beard and donning an Egyptian robe, shawl and head cap. … Over a year, Monteilh further related in an interview, the FBI paid him sums ranging from $2,500 a month to as high as $11,200.

(6)  The JFK International Bomb Plot

3 Years Later, Trial to Start in J.F.K. Bomb Plot“, New York Times, 29 June 2010 — Four suspects (one lived in the US), plus a convicted drug dealer who is receiving financial compensation and leniency on his previous sentence for his role as informant.   Defreitas was a Brooklyn vagrant until government money funded his new career as terrorist.  The plan was technically impossible, certainly for these people.

The request cited a 2006 memorandum between two federal agents that said that Mr. Defreitas and others “appeared to want to carry out a terrorist attack in the United States, but that they currently lack the funding and logistical support to carry out the operation.” The memorandum called for “a full-court press” on Mr. Defreitas, including introducing him to potential financial and logistical contacts through the confidential informant, “with an eye toward building a case of material support to terrorism,” according to the defense filing.

(7)  Farooque Ahmed

Feds arrest N.Va. man in D.C. Metro bomb plot“, Washington Post, 28 October 2010

An Obama administration official said Ahmed, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, first drew the attention of law enforcement officials by seeking to obtain unspecified materials. He later became the target of an undercover sting, officials said.  According to the indictment, federal agents posing as Islamic radicals began meeting with Ahmed in April. At the meetings, held in Northern Virginia hotels, he allegedly agreed to conduct video surveillance of the stations and suggested the best time to attack and the best locations to place explosives to maximize casualties. He is also accused of later turning over video and sketches he made of the stations.

(8)  Mohamed Osman Mohamud

F.B.I. Says Oregon Suspect Planned ‘Grand’ Attack“, New York Times, 27 November 2010

A Somali-born teenager who thought he was detonating a car bomb at a packed Christmas tree-lighting ceremony downtown here was arrested by the authorities on Friday night after federal agents said that they had spent nearly six months setting up a sting operation. The bomb, which was in a van parked off Pioneer Courthouse Square, was a fake — planted by F.B.I. agents as part of the elaborate sting … the F.B.I. had been tracking Mr. Mohamud since 2009 and his planning unfolded under the scrutiny and even assistance of undercover agents, officials said.

… The F.B.I.’s surveillance started in August 2009 after agents intercepted his e-mails with a man he had met in Oregon who had returned to the Middle East, according to a law enforcement official who described the man as a recruiter for terrorism. … Mr. Mohamud was then placed on a watch list and stopped at the Portland airport in June 2010 when he tried to fly to Alaska for a summer job.  …

Later in June, aware of Mr. Mohamud’s frustrated attempts to receive training as a jihadist overseas, an undercover agent first made contact with him, posing as an associate of the man in Pakistan. On the morning of July 30, the F.B.I. first met with Mr. Mohamud in person to initiate the sting operation.  The planning for the attack evolved from there, with Mr. Mohamud taking an aggressive role, insisting that he wanted to cause many deaths and selecting the Christmas target, according to federal agents. Reminded that many children and families would be at the ceremony, Mr. Mohamud said that he was looking for “a huge mass” of victims, according to the F.B.I.

… the F.B.I. let the plot play out, assisting Mr. Mohamud with the details, providing him with cash, scoping out a parking spot near the square, sketching out the plan on paper.

… And despite Mr. Mohamud’s contacts with militants abroad, officials said he appeared to have acted alone in his pursuit of the bombing here.

For more information about this sting:

The bottom line, from Glen Greewald’s article:

We hear the same exact thing over and over and over from accused Terrorists — that they are attempting to carry out plots in retaliation for past and ongoing American violence against Muslim civilians and to deter such future acts.  Here we find one of the great mysteries in American political culture:  that the U.S. Government dispatches its military all over the world — invading, occupying, and bombing multiple Muslim countries — torturing them, imprisoning them without charges, shooting them up at checkpoints, sending remote-controlled drones to explode their homes, imposing sanctions that starve hundreds of thousands of children to death  — and Americans are then baffled when some Muslims — an amazingly small percentage — harbor anger and vengeance toward them and want to return the violence.

And here we also find the greatest myth in American political discourse:  that engaging in all of that military aggression somehow constitutes Staying Safe and combating Terrorism — rather than doing more than any single other cause to provoke, sustain and fuel Terrorism.

… Meanwhile, in Oregon, the mosque sometimes attended by Mohamud was victimized today by arson.  So the FBI did not stop any actual Terrorist plots, but they may have helped inspire one.

Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.  (See here for the origin of this insight)

For more information about domestic terrorism

  1. Was 9/11 the most effective single military operation in the history of the world?, 11 June 2008
  2. “Some people just want to see the world burn”, 17 January 2009
  3. Are Americans easily panicked cowards? I think not, but many experts disagree., 24 April 2009
  4. Are islamic extremists like the anarchists?, 14 December 2009
  5. We have endemic terrorism – but few wars and epidemics. That’s good news!, 15 December 2009
  6. RAND explains How Terrorist Groups End, and gives Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida, 15 January 2010
  7. Stratfor discusses the Jihadist WMD Threat, 14 February 2010
  8. Stratfor’s strategic analysis – “Jihadism in 2010: The Threat Continues”, 17 March 2010
  9. Stratfor: “Jihadism: The Grassroots Paradox”, 21 March 2010
  10. Today’s fear-mongering (they think we’re cowards, but I’m sure they’re wrong), 4 May 2010
  11. Stratfor: Setting the Record Straight on Grassroots Jihadism, 15 May 2010
  12. A Stratfor forecast for America: “From Failed Bombings to Armed Jihadist Assaults”,  5 June 2010
  13. “Terrorism, Vigilance and the Limits of the War on Terror”, 6 October 2010

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