Two young men living in Brooklyn were arrested Feb. 25 and charged with plotting to travel to Syria to fight under the banner of ISIS. A third Brooklyn man was charged with helping organize and fund their activities. All three are immigrants from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and were living in the Midwood neighborhood. One of the men who reportedly sought to fight for ISIS, Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, worked in a gyro shop. The other, Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, worked at cellphone repair kiosks owned by the third man charged, Abror Habibov, 30. (NYT, DNAInfo, Feb. 25)
John Cassidy crunches the actual text of the indictments in The New Yorker, to find that the three came to authorities' attention last August, when Juraboev posted to jihadist website Hilofatnews.com (now offline) the following guileless text:
Greetings! We too wanted to pledge our allegiance and commit ourselves while not present there. I am in USA now but we don’t have any arms. But is it possible to commit ourselves as dedicated martyrs anyway while here? What I’m saying is, to shoot Obama and then get shot ourselves, will it do? That will strike fear in the hearts of infidels.
This of course earned him a visit from the FBI a few days later, and he happily told the agents that he would assassinate Obama if ordered to so by ISIS. The agents came back a few days after that, and he helpfully volunteered that he would plant a bomb in Coney Island if ISIS so ordered. Still no arrests. Instead, the FBI sent a "confidential informant" to infiltrate the circle of friends. The informant watched ISIS videos with them, discussed their plans to join ISIS in Syria, and even agreed to go there with them. Many of his conversations with Juraboev and Saidakhmetov were secretly recorded. On Jan. 9, the informant agreed to forge Saidakhmetov's signature on a new travel document. (His mother, fearful that he was thinking of joining ISIS, had confiscated the original one.)
Cassidy floats the possibility that it was the informant who took what was initially "all bluster" and forged it into real plans. The case "highlights everything that is wrong in how the Justice Department approaches these cases," Adam D. Perlmutter, a lawyer for Saidakhmetov, said after the arrests. His client had been "worked over extensively by a confidential informant,” Perlmutter added. "He's a kid. He's obviously scared. He's frightened. The ham-fisted tactics of the federal government are in play here, as usual."
Sounds at least potentially specious.