[Pnews] FBI Is Manufacturing Terror Plots Against Jewish-Americans, Driving Divisions Between Jews and Muslims

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 12 14:46:01 EDT 2016


http://www.alternet.org/grayzone-project/fbi-manufacturing-terror-plots-against-jewish-americans-driving-divisions-between 



  FBI Is Manufacturing Terror Plots Against Jewish-Americans, Driving
  Divisions Between Jews and Muslims

By Aviva Stahl / may 11, 2016

Since 9/11, the FBI and NYPD have solved dozens of terror plots that its 
own agents and assets manufactured, including some against synagogues. 
Even if the plots were less than real, the foiled “attacks” have greatly 
impacted both the defendants and their alleged victims, spreading fear 
among Jewish-Americans and triggering panicked reports about heightened 
threat against Jews.

The arrest 
<http://www.sun-sentinel.com/topic/crime-law-justice/fbi-ORGOV000008-topic.html> 
this April of James Medina, a recent convert to Islam with an extensive 
criminal history, may be the latest evidence of the disturbing practice. 
An FBI affidavit showed an FBI source suggesting that Medina bomb the 
Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in Hollywood, Florida on a Jewish holiday.

The source even encouraged Medina to claim the attack in the name of 
ISIS—a group he had no affiliation to. “Yeah, we can print up... 
something and make it look like it’s ISIS here in America,” Medina said, 
one of a series of statements evincing an erratic mental state.

“Aventura, watch your back,” he continued. “ISIS is in the house.”

The FBI ultimately gave Medina a fake bomb and arrested him. He is now 
on trial for planning to commit an act of terror with a weapon of mass 
destruction, a charge that could land the 40-year-old in prison for life.

Although there is still much to be known about Medina's case, it appears 
to be part of a broader pattern. Before his arrest, there were several 
other Muslim men, most of whom had mental illnesses or developmental 
disabilities, who were drawn into FBI dragnets and encouraged by federal 
law enforcement agents to attack Jewish institutions.

Among the most shocking cases was that of Ahmed Ferhani, a young, 
clinically bipolar Muslim teen currently serving a 10-year sentence in 
prison for terrorism-related charges.

*Manipulation*

“The synagogue bomber,” that’s what his lawyer, Lamis Deek, remembers 
the press calling Ahmed Ferhani.

On May 13, 2011, Ferhani and his co-defendant, Mohamed Mamdouh, were 
arrested and charged 
<http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/nypd-arrests-2-queens-terror-suspects-charged-plot-hit-nyc-synagogues-grenades-guns-article-1.146295> 
with planning to dress up as Hasidic Jews and plant a bomb in a 
Manhattan synagogue.

Many New York Jews were horrified. "It takes only 1 percent of the 
people we don't catch for tragedy to strike our community... We are just 
so grateful that the police caught it in time,” Rabbi Eli Shifrin of the 
ultra-Orthodox Chabad sect told the Bayside-Douglaston Patch 
<http://patch.com/new-york/bayside/area-jewish-community-reacts-to-alleged-terror-plot> 
after Ferhani and Mamdou were arrested.

But as with most domestic terrorism cases, especially those supposed 
plots in which undercover cops or informants play a role, the truth was 
much more complicated than it first seemed.

In an interview with AlterNet, Deek explained how it was the undercover 
NYPD detective—and not the defendants—who introduced the idea of bombing 
the synagogue, and manipulated the vulnerable, clinically bipolar 
Ferhani into making anti-Semitic remarks.

This April, Ferhani tried to hang himself in his jail cell, a result of 
the constant torment he endured from prison guards as a result of his 
alleged crimes, according to Deek. Her client is currently in a 
medically induced coma and may not survive—and if he does, he may suffer 
from permanent brain damage.

As Ahmed Ferhani’s family keeps vigil at his bedside, questions continue 
to mount about the alleged plot that brought him there.

*A Case of Entrapment?*

The story of Ferhani’s path to prison begins in 2010, when a friend 
introduced him to a man who called himself name Ilter Ayturk.

Ayturk was really an undercover NYPD officer with a history of 
initiating potentially illegal activities before his intended targets, 
so much so that the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF)—the multi-agency 
federal force charged with preventing attacks—had previously declined to 
get involved in his investigations.

Ayturk and Ferhani quickly grew close. “He was my twin, my best friend,” 
Ferhani told the Nation 
<http://www.thenation.com/article/did-nypd-entrap-ahmed-ferhani/> in 
2013. Ferhani is bipolar, according to his mother Kheira, and was 
hospitalized on and off as a teenager. Kheira would sometimes have to 
call 911 when her son got out of control, so the NYPD was well familiar 
with him, even before Ayturk was introduced into his life.

An October 2012 article published in the New York Review of Books 
<http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2012/10/25/problem-new-york-police/> 
analyzed Ferhani’s case alongside several other plots “foiled” by the 
NYPD. “Mentally unstable people may be capable of great harm and paid 
informants may help detect serious crimes,” noted writer Michael Greenberg.

“But the facts in these cases warrant critical attention.”

According to press reports, the undercover detective, Ayturk, soon 
started suggesting various schemes for Ferhani to make money and spoke 
to him about what was happening in Palestine and across the globe.

Next, Ayturk began introducing the anti-Semitic angle. “Ilter would 
start riling up Ferhani, and start trying to blame all these horrible 
things on the Jews,” explained Deek. “Then he would try to get Ahmed 
Ferhani to say something along those same lines.”

According to Deek, soliciting these kinds of comments from Ferhani was 
crucial for the prosecution to work. Overtly political or anti-Jewish 
statements would enable the government to “overcome the entrapment 
defense, because now they’ve established predisposition,” she explained.

Eventually, Ferhani met with an undercover agent posing as a weapons 
dealer, and paid $100 in exchange for 150 rounds of ammunition, three 
semiautomatic pistols and an inert hand grenade, supposedly to be attack 
a Manhattan synagogue.

“Absolutely,” said Deek, when I asked if Ayturk had also suggested the 
idea of attacking the synagogue. “He introduced everything.”

Deek’s insistence that Ferhani’s case amounted to entrapment—in the 
spirit of the law, if not the letter—is echoed by some press coverage of 
the trial. ”The government says he is a terrorist,” penned John Knefel 
is his March 2013 Nation 
<http://www.thenation.com/article/did-nypd-entrap-ahmed-ferhani/> 
article. “But his conversations with undercover police tell a different 
story.”

Since the federal government had refused to take on the case, Ferhani 
and his co-defendant were charged under a little-known state terrorism 
statute. In June 2011, a grand jury declined to indict them on the most 
serious charges put forward by the government, but indicted Ferhani and 
his co-defendant on lesser offenses, including planning to blow up an 
empty synagogue.

In December 2012, Ferhani pled guilty to nine terrorism-related charges 
and one hate crime charge. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

It wasn’t the first time an undercover operative in a counter-terrorism 
sting would encourage the plot’s anti-Jewish turn.

In 2007, FBI informant Shahed Hussain was sent to infiltrate the Masjid 
al-Ikhlas mosque in Newburgh, New York, where he soon introduced himself 
to a local resident, James Cromitie. Although Cromitie tried to ditch 
Hussain, the informant was persistent, and with time Hussain started 
encouraging Cromitie to adopt hateful views. Jews “are responsible for 
all the evils in the world,” Hussain told his target in one October 2008 
conversation.

Later that same day, Hussain tried to compel Cromitie to action: “When I 
feel these Moishites, these Yahud, in Palestine, killing Muslims, or 
killing people in Iraq or in Afghanistan, one of our brothers, I always 
think about going for a cause, for a cause of Islam.”

“Have you thought about that brother?” he asked Cromitie.

At the behest of Hussain, Cromitie recruited three other men as lookouts 
by offering them with substantial sums of money. The promises made by 
the informant sometimes appeared to exploit the men’s greatest 
vulnerabilities. David Williams, for example, agreed to get involved 
after Hussain offered to help him secure the cash to pay for his 
brother’s liver transplant 
<http://www.villagevoice.com/news/were-the-newburgh-4-really-out-to-blow-up-synagogues-a-defendant-finally-speaks-out-6430182>.

On May 20, 2009, the day of the planned attack, Cromitie and Hussain 
placed three inert explosive devices in a Mazda and parked outside of 
the Riverdale Jewish Center, while the other men acted as lookouts. The 
defendants have since said they never planned to set the bombs off, but 
rather swindle Hussain out of the cash.

The “bombs” had been built by the FBI and provided to the Newburgh Four 
through Hussain, and the government had selected the target.

Soon, cops swooped in to arrest.

It’s a case that’s been sharply criticized. “There would have been no 
crime here except the government instigated it, planned it, and brought 
it to fruition,” US District Judge Colleen McMahon told the court 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/documents-provide-rare-insight-into-fbis-terrorism-stings/2012/04/13/gIQASJ6CGT_story.html> 
when she sentenced Cromitie and his co-defendants to the mandatory 
minimum of 25 years.

In a Guardian opinion piece 
<http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jun/30/fbi-terrorism> 
published in June 2011, then-director of the Center on Law and Security 
at NYU’s Law School, Karen Greenberg, wondered whether Hussain’s hateful 
actions and words were really in the public interest: “Who really thinks 
that tax dollars are well spent to support utterances of anti-Semitism 
as a means of bonding with potential criminals and turning them into 
attempted terrorists?”

*A History of Manufacturing Anti-Semitism*

There are other questions, too—like whether it was the undercover 
operatives, their handlers, or higher-ups in the NYPD or FBI, who guided 
the plots towards their anti-Jewish end.

“I definitely suspect that there was a lot of detailed instructions in 
this case,” for Ayturk, said Deek when I asked her what she thought.

It’s a startling image: a group of cops or FBI agents sit around an 
office table and plot the details of an “attack” on Jews.

The idea sounds implausible, even conspiratorial. But the FBI has 
previously made calculated decisions before to exploit anti-Semitism as 
a means of managing perceived national security threats.

As Kenneth O'Reilly writes in his landmark text Racial Matters: The 
FBI's Secret File on Black America, “one of the FBI’s favourite tactics 
was to accuse the Panthers and other black nationalists of 
anti-Semitism, a tactic designed to destroy the movement’s image ‘among 
liberal and naive elements.’”

In late 1969, the FBI devised a plan to establish contact with Rabbi 
Meir Kahane, head of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), for 
“counter-intelligence purposes.”  The ultra-nationalist JDL that had 
already held several highly publicized protests against “Black 
anti-Semitism,” and at the time, Kahane was writing a column for the 
Jewish Press.

The FBI soon began sending Kahane anonymous messages intended to depict 
the Black Panther Party (BPP) as violently anti-Semitic, material that 
Kahane integrated into his column. One such letter to Kahane declared: 
‘We will get you one by one. Israel will have to be destroyed. Too much 
Jewish Political Power now. In the future it will be Black power.”

Tensions grew so high that a street battle almost broke out between the 
BPP and the JDL in May 1970. “The FBI… was pleased” with this 
development, narrates Robert Friedman in his 1990 biography about 
Kahane’s life. “Kahane was the perfect stooge.”

*Widening Divisions Between Muslims and Jews*

While the Black Panther Party may no longer be “the greatest threat to 
the internal security of the country”—as FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover 
once said—today those same worlds could quite easily be applied to 
Muslim “extremists.”

There is no evidence to suggest there is a coordinated scheme within the 
NYPD or the FBI to drive divisions between Muslims and Jews—but for 
families directly affected by the plots, it seems like the writing is on 
the wall.

Shahina Parveen is the mother of Matin Siraj, who is currently serving 
30 years on terrorism-related charges, another instance in which the 
government informant played a key role and induced his target into 
adopting anti-Semitic beliefs. Parveen is also close friends with 
Ferhani’s mother.

“Hate is like a wildfire,” Parveen told AlterNet. “It is the police 
informants and undercovers who start these fires through manipulating 
impressionable young people to not only manufacture these cases, but 
also to cause mistrust across our communities.”

“Is this a part of their duties?” she lamented.

The informant in Siraj’s case, Osama Eldawoody, acted as a religious 
guide for her son, Parveen told me when I interviewed her several years 
ago. The two men met in 2003, at the Islamic bookstore in Bay Ridge 
where Siraj worked.

He was an impressionable young man who had struggled in school and was 
often described as a little slow. Siraj quickly became attached to his 
older friend.

“Eldawoody’s play was that there’s a war on Muslims, and that America 
and Israel are at the heart of it,” explained Siraj’s attorney, Martin 
Stolar, when I spoke to him over the phone. “And that the war on Muslims 
being perpetrated in Iraq and Afghanistan and against the Palestinians, 
required a true Muslim to take action.”

When Eldawoody encouraged Siraj to plan an attack, Siraj suggested 
bombing the 34th St. Herald Square subway station. Eldawoody offered to 
acquire weapons, but the plan never got past its initial stages, and it 
is clear from other recordings that Siraj had mixed feelings about 
moving forward.

At one point Siraj told Eldawoody that he wanted to ask his mother for 
permission 
<http://www.democracynow.org/2007/1/10/police_entrapment_in_terror_case_nyc> 
before proceeding, and he later informed Eldawoody he wanted out of the 
plan completely.

But the government didn’t back off. Siraj and his co-defendant, James 
Elshafay, were arrested in late August 2004, and the recordings of Siraj 
making anti-Semitic statements were played at his trial and reported by 
the press.

“Comments like that would affect the jury, and they definitely affected 
the judge,” said Stolar when I asked how the remarks played out.

“[The judge] was angered by those kinds of comments—her background is 
Jewish,” explained Stolar. Siraj was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years.

Laura Whitehorn is a Jewish left-wing activist who served time in prison 
for her political activities during the era of COINTELPRO.

“In my experience, the claim that someone—especially an alleged 
‘terrorist’—was motivated by anti-Semitism seems calculated to silence 
any questioning, any doubt,” she told AlterNet. “It’s a way to try to 
slam dunk the target, ensuring that the public will not sympathize with 
them or question the evidence against them.”

Undercover operatives in the cases also appeared to elide the 
distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, even if that meant 
editorializing over material critical of the occupation.

“In none of the films or the literature that the undercover was sharing, 
or using, with Ferhani or Mamdouh—in none of them was there an iota of 
anti-Semitism, or a blaming of the Jews in any of the propaganda that he 
used,” explained Deek.

“However,” added Deek, “when [Ilter] would refer to them, that’s how he 
would talk—and he would push Ferhani to say these things, to say 
anti-Semitic things, especially as it relates to Palestine.”

Ayturk had infiltrated Palestine activist groups in New York City as 
early as 2008 <http://nypdconfidential.com/columns/2012/120319.html>, 
and was actually spying on the local chapter of Al-Awda, the Palestine 
right to return coalition, when he met the mutual friend who 
subsequently introduced him to Ferhani.

*Government Grants to Targets of FBI-Manufactured Plots*

Oren Segal, the Director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on 
Extremism, said that he felt debates about entrapment were worthwhile, 
but that no one should forget the impact of the alleged plots on Jews.

“Whether or not that case was handled as best as possible—let people 
debate that, they should,” said, referring to the Newburgh Four case. 
“We should always hold our law enforcement accountable for what they’re 
doing.”

“But I will tell you, there’s no debate that case had an impact on the 
security and safety of the Jewish community, and how they felt about it. 
When we’re talking about the issue of anti-Semitism, and the role it 
played there, at the end of the day people tried to plant some bombs in 
front of Jewish institutions,” he added.

Fearful people want protection, and protection is pricey—so in the years 
since 9/11, American Jews have pushed for government funds.

The Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), which was created by 
Congress in 2005, “provides funding 
<http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1438022313637-aad6aaf5b678f6e5750fb047ebb1aa33/FY_2015_NSGP_Fact_Sheet_Allocations.pdf> 
support for target hardening and other physical security enhancements 
and activities to non-profit organizations that are at high risk of a 
terrorist attack.” As of FY 2014, Jewish organizations and institutions 
have received the vast majority of the $151 million 
<https://scnus.org/scn-updates/weekly-r/scn-contributor-2a> awarded, 
including 74 percent of the funds distributed between 2007 and 2010, 81 
percent in 2011, 97 percent in 2012 
<http://forward.com/news/142542/how-an-anti-terror-program-became-a-jewish-earmark/> 
and nearly 90 percent of the money given out in 2014 
<http://advocacy.ou.org/orthodox-union-applauds-2014-security-funding/>.

“This disproportionate distribution is no accident,” wrote Eileen 
Reynolds and two other Jewish Daily Forward journalists in an extensive 
investigation 
<http://forward.com/news/142542/how-an-anti-terror-program-became-a-jewish-earmark/> 
published in September 2011.

“The coalition lobbying for the program was led by United Jewish 
Communities, now known as the Jewish Federations of North America, and 
by the Orthodox Union and several other Jewish groups.”

Some communities targeted by government-driven plots have benefitted 
directly. After the alleged attacks, the Riverdale Temple and the 
Riverdale Jewish Center each received a $25,000 grant 
<http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/general/35033/paterson-announces-security-grants-for-riverdale-synagogues-targeted-in-foiled-terror-plot.html> 
“to upgrade their security systems.”

But the arrests have also been utilized by Jewish groups across the city 
to secure funding. In the NSGP application for the grant money, 
institutions are required to demonstrate that they or closely related 
organizations have been subject to threats or attacks by terrorist 
groups. The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York produces a 
comprehensive document 
<https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KWpACdKDNOROAw55wd4DMnogKJXKPnZczAy8I3eMUJ4/edit?pref=2&pli=1#heading=h.5x0d5h95i329> 
to help Jewish groups establish risk.

“The Riverdale and Manhattan [Ferhani] bomb plots are exhibits of the 
continuing that of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and vehicle-borne 
IEDs,” notes the author in a section on how to establish high 
probability and high consequence threats.

*“This Case Killed Him”*

Of course, some terrorist groups do propagate the notion that Muslims 
are at war with America, and “the Jews.”

“I tell Muslims to believe in the victory of God and in Jihad against 
the infidels of the world,” said Osama Bin Laden in an October 2002 
interview published by CNN 
<http://edition.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/south/02/05/binladen.transcript/>. 
“The killing of Jews and Americans is one of the greatest duties.”

Jews have also faced real danger. During the November 2015 attacks on 
Paris, suspected gunmen Amedy Coulibaly stormed a kosher supermarket and 
killed four people. Six people were murdered in the attack on Mumbai’s 
Chabad House in November 2008, including a woman who was five months 
pregnant.

In the cases examined here, however, the defendants would likely never 
have been able to pull off an attack on their own, and they knew little 
or nothing about Judaism. “After Ilter had suggested that, they’re so 
angry, they should go bomb a synagogue, or they should do something at 
synagogue, Mamdouh actually looked at Ilter and said, ‘what the hell is 
a synagogue,’” Lamis Deek recalled.

Some American Jewish institutions see and cite these plots as proof of 
the danger posed by Muslim “extremists,” even though the primary person 
peddling the “extremist” ideology was the government agent. A 2013 ADL 
report 
<http://www.adl.org/assets/pdf/combating-hate/muslim-extremists-threat-to-jews-2013-4-24-v1.pdf> 
entitled, “American Muslim Extremists: A Continuing Threat to Jews,” 
refers to both the Ferhani and the Newburgh arrests on its first page.

Progressive Jewish organizations operating outside the institutional 
tent have taken a different stance. “It is not uncommon for anti-Muslim 
sentiment or policies to be connected to the Islamophobic stereotype 
that Muslims hate Jews,” said Naomi Dann, the Media Coordinator at 
Jewish Voice for Peace. “It is particularly disturbing when this false 
stereotype is encouraged by actions of the state or law enforcement, and 
when accusations of antisemitism are used to justify Islamophobia.”

“Cases of entrapment, and the infiltration and surveillance of community 
groups that goes along with these practices, have very real and harmful 
impacts on Muslim communities, and should outrage all of us,” she stressed.

Being drawn into a government-manufactured plot has changed the lives of 
the defendants and their families irrevocably. A son behind bars means 
one less breadwinner in the home, and the often-exorbitant expense of 
visiting him behind bars can be taxing. The parents and siblings of the 
defendants have sometime endured surveillance from the police or FBI, 
even visits from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The day after her son was sentenced, Shahina Parveen, along with her 
husband and daughter, were picked up by ICE 
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/10/AR2007011002068.html> 
and placed in immigration detention, due to outstanding issues in 
Parveen’s husband’s legal status. All three were eventually released, 
but the experience was very difficult, Parveen told me.

Then there is Ahmed Ferhani, who wrote about the abuses he faced at the 
hands of prison guards in letters reviewed by the Nation 
<http://www.thenation.com/article/a-muslim-man-was-ensnared-in-a-terror-plot-by-the-nypd-he-just-attempted-suicide/?nc=1>. 
“At least 90 percent of the abuse that he suffered at the hands of the 
COs was a direct result of the charges that were brought against him, 
and that’s what drove him crazy,” said Deek when I asked her about the 
impact of the alleged plot.

“This case killed him, or near killed him, and it devastated his 
family,” she reflected, her voice trembling with sorrow.

Nefarious or not, the plots have driven a wedge between city residents 
of the two faiths.

“Jews feel like the victims of [these plots],” the ADL’s Segal told me 
when I asked him about Muslim community concerns.

In 2011, I interviewed Alicia McWilliams, the aunt of one of the 
Newburgh Four defendants. She recalled a visit to the rabbi at Riverdale 
Jewish Center just one week after the arrests:

“I told him, ‘The government manufactured this crime’, and he said, 
‘Well, James [Cromitie] said some hurtful things’ [on the FBI tapes]... 
‘You will not see us out there [supporting the accused]’ and we didn’t.”

McWilliams continued, “Then I met with him this past July, and I asked 
him how it would feel to be used. We were used, and you were used. The 
only difference is that you’re getting grants, and David and them are 
going away for life.”

Neither the NYPD nor the FBI have responded to requests for a response 
to the allegations raised in this article.

For now, the Newburgh Four remains behind bars, Matin Siraj counts down 
the days until his release, and Kheira Ferhani sits at her son’s 
bedside, praying for his recovery.

Aviva Stahl is a Brooklyn-based journalist who writes about prisons, 
national security, and immigration detention.

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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