Did Bronx terror plot originate with FBI?

Four men in Newburgh, NY, are arrested by federal agents in a supposed plot to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes at Stewart International Airport with Stinger missiles. The men are apparently all Black converts to Islam; one is a Haitian immigrant; most have drug convictions and converted in prison. (NYT, May 21) The (disabled) Stinger missile, of course, originated with the FBI infiltrator. We wonder how much more of the plot originated with the FBI infiltrator.

Some deconstructions of the first New York Times account of the arrests, May 20. Propaganda words in bold:

A federal law enforcement official described the plot as “aspirational” — meaning that the suspects wanted to do something but had no weapons or explosives — and described the operation as a sting with a cooperator within the group.

“It was fully controlled at all times,” a law enforcement official said.

“Fully controlled”? A virtual admission that the scheme originated with the FBI. For “aspirational,” we say “specious.” For “cooperator,” we say “provocateur.” The Times also notes that the men have been charged with “conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.” Stinger missiles are “weapons of mass destruction”? The US is guilty of providing Islamist extremists in Afghanistan “weapons of mass destruction” during the 1980s Mujahedeen war?

We have repeatedly called out the annoying conspiranoids who think al-Qaeda doesn’t exist and all terrorism on Earth originates in “false flag” operations. But there is nonetheless some logic in the anarchist aphorism “The State creates its own enemies.”

A little good news from Newsday, May 22:

Dozens of rabbis, priests and imams showed support Friday for members of the two Riverdale Jewish sites that were targets of a foiled terrorist plot this week.

“It’s very important, because when these types of things happen, Muslim leaders can’t be quiet,” said Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, the deputy emir of the Muslim Alliance in North America, during a meeting at the Riverdale Jewish Center in the Bronx. “We have to speak out so that no one will be interpreting what we are thinking or how we are feeling about situations. That’s why we thought it was critical we be here.”

Sakhawat Hussain, chairman of the Al-Mahdi Foundation, an Islamic organization that covers New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, said, “It’s the message of the faith. Terrorists do not have any relevance. We don’t accept them as Muslims. Muslim means those who are the followers of peace. If you subscribe to any terrorist activity, you are not Muslim. This is the lesson of [the] Quran.”

Religious leaders began reaching out to the Riverdale Jewish Center and Riverdale Temple shortly after word of the failed plot became public late Wednesday. The Brooklyn-based Muslim group Council of People Organization and the Jewish Community Relations Council hastily scheduled a conference call of solidarity among religious leaders across the city, said Mohammad Razvi, the leader of the Brooklyn group.

See our last posts on fear in New York City and the struggle within Islam.

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  1. NYC gastro-terrorists take aim at overpriced coffee
    This one smells to us less of terrorism than yahooism. From the New York Times, May 26:

    Explosion Rocks a Starbucks on the Upper East Side
    An explosive device shattered the windows of a Starbucks on the Upper East Side early Monday but there were no reported injuries, the police said.

    The device, which had been placed on the wooden bench on 92nd Street, just west of Third Avenue, exploded shortly before 3:30 a.m., the police said. “We are going to analyze the type of explosive that has been used,” the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, told reporters on the scene. “It is described by our bomb experts as a low explosive.”

    Governor David A. Paterson, who went inside the damaged Starbucks, said that the explosion was caused by an “improvised explosive device tied with black tape around foil. It was not a high impact explosion, it blew out two of the windows, put a burn on the side of the building.”

    No arrests had been reported, and the police said that they would look at surveillance video from businesses in the neighborhood…

    Hours after the blast, shards of wood from the bench were still scattered across the sidewalk into the street, and yellow evidence markers dotted the sidewalk and the intersection. In addition to the police, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Joint Terrorism Task Force units combed the scene.

    The police said that it was too soon to say whether this explosion could be linked to similar small blasts in Manhattan. In March 2008, a small bomb exploded at the Times Square military recruiting station on Broadway just north of 43rd Street. In 2007, there was a blast at the Mexican consulate; following a similar one at the British consulate in 2005.

    Each time, the explosion occurred in the predawn hours, inflicting little damage and causing no casualties.

    Asked about any connections, Mr. Kelly only noted that they had taken place at similar times.

    Another blow in the world gastro-wars?

  2. Here we go again…
    From the Daily News, Sept. 14:

    Dramatic raids in search of terror: Feds move on Qaeda suspect’s Queens pals
    Federal officials launched a series of raids Monday after tailing a suspected Al Qaeda operative believed to have been orchestrating a bomb plot.

    FBI agents thought the threat was significant enough to race to court Sunday night to get an emergency search warrant to look for bomb-making components, explosive powders, gels, TNT and fuses, sources said.

    The raids came hours before President Obama visited the city to give a speech on the economy and just days before world leaders converge on New York for the UN General Assembly. Officials said there was no indication that the plot was related to either event.

    At least three apartments in Flushing were searched. Several men were detained but later released, officials said.

    “They had guns and they said, ‘Get down on the floor and raise your hands,'” said Amanulla Akvari, 30, a cabbie who was awakened at 2:30 a.m. by up to 15 cops and FBI agents bashing down the door of his 41st Ave. apartment.

    Akvari’s roommate, Naiz Khan, said two agents grilled him a second time later yesterday at a Brooklyn office, asking specific questions about a friend of his named “Najibullah.”

    Khan said Najibullah moved to a Western state six months ago, but showed up out of the blue Thursday.

    “He [Najibullah] walked up behind me while I was walking to the mosque and tapped on my back. He needed a place to stay,” Khan said. “He stayed one night.”

    Khan, who runs a coffee cart, said he’s known Najibullah for seven years and used to shoot pool with him.

    He said the FBI agents also showed him photos of two men from his mosque, Masjid Hazrat-I-Abu Bakr in Flushing.

    So we don’t even have a full name for this supposed “Qaeda suspect”? Sounds pretty specious to us. But wait, it gets worse. From AFP, Sept. 15:

    New York Senator Chuck Schumer insisted the raids were preventive and that no terrorist attack was in its final planning stages.

    “There was nothing imminent, and our law enforcement officials are very good now at tracking potentially dangerous actions,” Schumer said in a statement.

    This is supposed to comfort us? That the authorities have the power to raid your apartment on admittedly sketchy evidence? Haven’t we learned from Bush’s disaster in Iraq the dangers of “preventive” strikes? When will New Yorkers rise up and protest this crap? The freedom you save could be your own…

  3. Queens terror raids “the real thing”?
    Yet no arrests? Forgive our skepticism. More from the Daily News, Sept. 15:

    Queens terror raids part of FBI probe into Denver-based cell plotting attack on 9/11 scale
    The massive FBI probe that triggered raids in Queens is focused on a Denver-based terror cell plotting another attack on the scale of 9/11, the Daily News learned Tuesday.

    Hundreds of FBI agents are on the ground in Colorado, conducting round-the-clock surveillance on five suspects – including a man who recently visited Queens, sources told The News.

    New York authorities searched three Flushing apartments and detained several men – later released – after getting a warrant to look for bomb-making components, explosive powders and fuses.

    “The FBI is seriously spooked about these guys planning another 9/11,” a former senior counterterrorism official told the News. “This is not some … FBI informant-driven case. This is the real thing.”

    Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters it’s an ongoing investigation with plenty of “substance.”

    The 24-7 counterterror operation included Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants used to intercept calls and e-mails, as well as overseas-linked wiretaps to eavesdrop on Arabic and Pashto-speaking targets.

    Sources said the investigation’s targets are Afghans – an unusual development. Al Qaeda prefers Arabs and Pakistanis as there overseas operatives.

    FBI officials are furious at Kelly over Monday’s raids because the NYPD seemed intent on scaring off the cell – which is believed to be plotting a New York attack.

    The FBI hoped to wait and determine what the Colorado cell was planning.

    Two other sources confirmed the FBI-NYPD rift. An investigator involved in the case said Kelly prefers to “act too soon rather than act too late.”

    NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said it is “an utter fabrication that the FBI is furious with Kelly or that Kelly fought to shut down the action early.”

  4. Finally, we get a last name
    From AP, Sept. 16:

    AURORA, Colo. – Federal agents on Wednesday searched the home of a suburban Denver man identified by law enforcement as having a possible link to al-Qaida, carting away several boxes of evidence.

    The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force went through the home of Najibullah Zazi, as well as the nearby residence of his aunt, Rabia Zazi, FBI special agent Kathleen Wright said Wednesday. She wouldn’t comment on whether Najibullah Zazi or the aunt were detained.

    Zazi denies that he’s a central figure in a terrorism investigation that fed fears of a possible bomb plot and led to several police raids in New York City on Monday. His attorney, Arthur Folsom, was not at his Denver office and couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

    The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver said it had no immediate comment.

    Agents left Zazi’s apartment with at least six boxes. One was labeled “swabs,” and others were marked “fragile” and “glass.”

  5. Could this one really be for real?
    Obama is scheduled to commend the New York FBI office for its work in the investigation that led to the arrest and indictment of Najibullah Zazi. (Newsday, Oct. 19) It seems this time around the feds are really claiming evidence of an al-Qaeda link—not just a police infiltrator pretending to be al-Qaeda… From the New York Times, Spet. 30:

    Suspect Pleads Not Guilty in Bomb-Conspiracy Case
    An Afghan immigrant from Denver who federal officials say was at the center of a Qaeda plot to set off bombs in the United States appeared in court in Brooklyn for the first time on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to terrorism-conspiracy charges.

    The man, Najibullah Zazi, 24, who was born in Afghanistan, raised in Pakistan and lived in New York for 10 years before moving to Denver in January, was arrested there on Sept. 19 on charges that he had lied to the authorities during a terrorism investigation. Four days later, Mr. Zazi, who drove an airport shuttle bus in Denver, was indicted in Brooklyn on the bombing-conspiracy charges.

    The authorities have said that he received weapons and explosives training at a Qaeda camp in Pakistan last year, bought beauty products that contained the raw materials to build a bomb and traveled to Queens with bomb-making instructions in his laptop on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Federal marshals brought Mr. Zazi to New York on Friday after a federal judge in Denver dismissed the false-statement charge against him and ordered him held without bail and transferred to Brooklyn to face the more serious terrorism indictment.

  6. FBI hangs terror informant out to dry?
    A Dec. 13 New York Times account, “Imam’s Lawyer Plays Up Interagency Rift in Terror Case,” portrays elements of the NYPD working at cross purposes to the Joint Terrorism Task Force in the Najibullah Zazi case:

    The investigation stretched from a Queens neighborhood where Mr. Zazi and his friends had gone to the same high school, to Denver, where he had moved early this year, and Pakistan, where, officials would later say, he received training in weapons and explosives in Peshawar.

    But the covert inquiry burst into public view abruptly after an effort by the Police Department’s Intelligence Division backfired. Apparently without consulting the task force, the Intelligence Division enlisted a Queens imam to help develop information about Mr. Zazi, according to police and federal law enforcement officials.

    Federal authorities accused the imam, Ahmad Wais Afzali, who had provided information to the Intelligence Division in the past, of warning Mr. Zazi about the investigation, an allegation Mr. Afzali has denied. Regardless, the disclosure forced the hand of the task force, which then had to hurriedly execute search warrants in Queens, and later make arrests, before it had initially planned to do so.

    The Intelligence Division’s actions, apparently taken without consulting the task force agents and detectives handling the case, and the role those actions played in disrupting the investigation, frayed already strained relations between the sometimes rival units, people briefed on the case have said.

    But court papers filed last week in the case of Mr. Afzali, 37, who was accused of lying about his conversations with Mr. Zazi and charged with making a false statement in a terrorism investigation, say that the Intelligence Division’s efforts went further than had initially been disclosed.

    In a letter to the judge in the case, Mr. Afzali’s lawyer, Ronald L. Kuby, said that not only had an Intelligence Division lieutenant and detective shown his client photographs of Mr. Zazi and the other men, but that the detective later praised the imam for contacting one of them and setting up a meeting.

    The detective, according to the letter, instructed the imam to find out from the man, who is not named in the letter, “what they are up to.”

    “The imam again did as he was told, and met with the young man, as planned,” Mr. Kuby said in the letter. “The young man confided in the imam that he, Zazi and a third person had traveled to Pakistan, and one of the trio had gone to Afghanistan.”

    Mr. Afzali, according to the letter, passed the information to his Intelligence Division handlers.

    Despite the Intelligence Division detective’s praise for Mr. Afzali, Mr. Kuby wrote that “the F.B.I. did not share the N.Y.P.D.’s delight,” and that the federal authorities learned of Mr. Afzali’s involvement when his conversation with Mr. Zazi was intercepted on a wiretap.

    Mr. Kuby’s account of the Intelligence Division’s role in the case, if true, suggests that the missteps went beyond merely showing the pictures to the imam, indicating that its investigators took a more active role, directing the imam to meet with and debrief one of the men under scrutiny by federal authorities.

    Mr. Kuby is clearly trying to use any rift to his advantage, contending that his client was willingly seeking to aid the authorities, with whom he had worked before. He said that it was the tension between the Intelligence Division and the task force, two units that have a history of some mistrust, that botched the investigation.

  7. Najibullah Zazi pleads guilty
    Of course after all the controversy around this case, when the guy pleads guilty the Justice Department and media portray it as a clear-cut victory. From the New York Times, Feb. 23:

    Guilty Plea Made in Plot to Bomb New York Subway
    The Afghan immigrant at the center of what the authorities described as one of the most serious threats to the United States since 9/11 pleaded guilty Monday to terrorism charges in what he said was a Qaeda plot to detonate a bomb in the New York subway.

    The man, Najibullah Zazi, admitted that he came to New York last year near the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks to kill himself and others on the subway using a homemade bomb. He characterized the plot as a “martyrdom operation” that he was just days away from executing when he said he realized he was under government surveillance.

    Mr. Zazi, 25, pleaded guilty in United States District Court in Brooklyn to charges that included conspiracies to use weapons of mass destruction and to commit murder in a foreign country, and to provide material support for a terrorist organization. He faces a possible life term when he is sentenced on June 25.

    Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said at a news conference in Washington that the Zazi case represented one of the most serious threats to the United States since the 9/11 attacks.

  8. New indictments in supposed NYC terror plot
    The Justice Department announced Feb. 25 that a federal grand jury in the New York has returned a five-count superseding indictment against accused terrorists Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay. The men, both US citizens, have been charged with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and providing material support to al-Qaeda in connection with a plot to plant explosives in the New York City subway system. Ahmedzay faces an additional count of making false statements in a terrorism investigation. Both men were arrested last month, and Medunjanin has pleaded not guilty to similar charges. Two of the counts carry possible sentences of life in prison. Both pleaded not guilty to the new charges.

    Medunjanin and Ahmedzay are suspected of operating in conjunction with Najibullah Zazi, the native of Afghanistan arrested by FBI agents in Colorado last fall. The three allegedly traveled together to Pakistan in 2008 to receive al-Qaeda training. Zazi pleaded guilty to three criminal charges earlier this week, including conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction, as well as providing material support for al-Qaeda. He faces up to life in prison for two of the counts, and 15 years in prison for the third. (Jurist, Feb. 26)

  9. Cleric pleads guilty to lying to FBI about NYC subway plot
    Imam Ahmad Afzali pleaded guilty March 4 in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York to charges of lying to FBI agents in connection with a plot to detonate explosives in the New York City subway system. Afzali faces up to six months in prison and must leave the country within 90 days after being released from prison. Afzali, a New York City cleric, was arrested in September for tipping off terror suspects that the FBI was gathering intelligence on them. Sentencing is set for April 8. (Jurist, March 5)

  10. Yes, Bronx terror plot emerged from FBI
    Boy, did we ever call that one. From the New York Times, March 17:

    Defense Cites Entrapment in Terror Case
    The man accused of masterminding a plot to blow up two synagogues in the Riverdale section of the Bronx was offered $250,000 by a paid government informant for his effort, according to papers filed in court on Wednesday by defense lawyers.

    The papers, which seek dismissal of the federal charges, detail how the informant spent nearly a year courting the man, encouraging him to identify targets and recruit others to the mission. The informant, identified in the court papers as Shaheed Hussain, who had helped the Federal Bureau of Investigation in at least one other case, has been credited with helping to prevent the plot’s success.

    Mr. Hussain posed as a wealthy representative of a Pakistani terrorist organization. He repeatedly dangled the promise of large cash payments as he helped oversee the recruitment of the four men arrested last May in the plot, according to the court papers, which draw from recorded conversations.

    During one conversation last April, James Cromitie, the Newburgh, N.Y., man accused of leading the plot, told Mr. Hussain that he was out of the state trying to make money. The two had not spoken for six weeks, and Mr. Cromitie expressed reluctance at joining Mr. Hussain’s plan.

    “I told you,” Mr. Hussain replied, according to the court documents, “I can make $250,000, but you don’t want it, brother. What can I tell you?”

    In another conversation, Mr. Cromitie referred to being told to offer $25,000 to anyone willing to participate as a lookout. “If you can assure them that they gonna see that much money, they gonna go for it,” Mr. Cromitie said, according to the documents.

    1. Newburgh Four head to appeals court
      The so-called Newburgh Four, who were convicted last fall in the supposed 2009 plot to shoot down military aircraft and blow up two synagogues in Riverdale, are taking their case to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. An entrapment defense was rejected in last year’s trial, and a jury found them guilty. The four men were sentenced to 25 years to life—the least severe penalty the judge could give under the draconian mandatory minimum laws. “The government manufactured the criminal and manufactured the crime,” a defense attorney said about the case last year. Further details of how the scam worked in an Oct. 19 piece in the Village Voice.

  11. Not guilty plea in NYC subway plot
    Suspected terrorist Adis Medunjanin pleaded not guilty Aug. 6 in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York to charges of participating in a plot to detonate a bomb inside the New York City subway. In January, Medunjanin pleaded not guilty to charges that he received terrorist training conspired with Najibullah Zazi last year to hatch the subway bomb plot. Medunjanin, a naturalized American citizen, was arrested earlier this year in connection with an ongoing investigation of Zazi, who allegedly traveled with Medunjanin and one other individual to Pakistan in 2008 to receive al-Qaeda training, according to prosecutors. He was indicted on additional charges in July. (Jurist, Aug. 6)

    1. Guilty verdict in NYC subway plot
      Amid all the recent bogus (infiltrator-generated) terror plots in New York in recent months, the one plot that looks like it might have actually been real has just resulted in a conviction. Interestingly, Adis Medunjanin, 27, of Flushing, Queens, is an immigrant from Bosnia, from where his family fled to escape Serb aggression. Defense attorney Robert Gottlieb “told jurors his client’s own escape from the atrocities in Bosnia deepened his sense of obligation to protect his fellow Muslim where he saw them under siege,” WNYC informs us. Medunjanin in his own statement to the jury said, “This is the payback for the atrocities that you do” in Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems he travelled to the Afghan-Pakistan border seeking to join the Taliban and fight US troops. Accompanied by two buds from Queens, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay (who both pleaded guilty), he instead wound up at an al-Qaeda camp in Waziristan, where he was recruited for attacks back in New York. (BBC News, ABC, May 1; CBS, April 19)

      Get that? Traumatized as a youth by Serb atrocities in Bosnia, turns jihadist cannon fodder due to US atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      Tell us again how the Afghan war is making us safer….

  12. Another terror plot on NYC synagogues?
    OK, is this one real or bogus? From IBT New York, May 13:

    Two Queens men, Ahmed Ferhani and Mohammed Mamdou, who were planning to bomb synagogues in Manhattan, were brought to court on Thursday afternoon. They are on trial today in the State Court, charged with terrorism and hate-crime conspiracy.

    Ferhani, 26, is from Algeria and Mamdouh, 20, is an American citizen of Moroccan descent. They were arrested Tuesday night in a police sting operation as they were allegedly purchasing weapons with drugs. One of the suspects confessed to the plot to kill Jews.

    Ferhani worked at Saks Fifth Avenue as a cosmetics salesman and was on police radar for some time. Mamdouh worked as a taxi dispatcher. Both had weapons in their possession already and were arrested last year for robbery. With a narcotics criminal record, Ferhani was trying to sell drugs to fund the weapons. Their plot thickened from terrorizing synagogues to bombing the Empire State Building.

    Ferhani is the supposed ringleader of the terrorist conspiracy to destroy a major synagogue in Manhattan. However, Ferhani and Mamdouh are Islamist extremists, unconnected to a formal group. Since the plot is localized, Ferhani and Mamdouh are being charged under state terrorism laws. If convicted, they face the potential penalty of life in prison.

    “However, Ferhani and Mamdouh are Islamist extremists…”? Yes, we would imagine so… But did they come up with this idea on their own, or was it the brainchild of an infiltrator? Given the apparent non-involvement of the FBI, maybe this one is legitimate.