NYC: police informant behind terror plot?

Yet again. All it takes is reading the New York Times to get pretty damn paranoid these days. From May 16:

Defendant Says Police Informer Pushed Him Into Bomb Plot
A Pakistani immigrant accused of plotting to blow up the Herald Square subway station in 2004 took the stand in his own defense yesterday and said he never wanted to carry out an attack until he met a paid police informer who treated him like a younger brother and inflamed his anger against the United States.

The defendant, Shahawar Matin Siraj, 23, told the jury in United States District Court in Brooklyn that the informer had shown him dozens of images, including pictures of prisoners being abused at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and a video of the fatal shooting of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy who died in his father’s arms in Gaza.

Mr. Siraj testified for about four hours under questioning by one of his lawyers, Khurrum B. Wahid. Later in the day, a prosecutor took over, throwing rapid-fire questions at Mr. Siraj about his earlier statements on suicide bombings and the United States. The cross-examination will continue today.

The defense has acknowledged that Mr. Siraj took part in a conspiracy. Mr. Wahid yesterday tried to bolster the defense argument that the plot was driven by the informer, Osama Eldawoody. He asked Mr. Siraj who he felt had been the leader of the conspiracy, which also included another young man who pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution.

“Basically, according to me, it came from Eldawoody,” Mr. Siraj said. “He was the one who want to do these things.”

Mr. Siraj also said that he came up with the Herald Square subway plot in an effort to impress Mr. Eldawoody after becoming jealous when the informer praised the other young man’s plan to bomb the four bridges linking Staten Island to Brooklyn and New Jersey.

During cross-examination, an assistant United States attorney, Marshall Miller, suggested that Mr. Siraj had approved of suicide bombings long before he had met Mr. Eldawoody and had said that such attacks were going to happen in the United States because of its policy toward Israel. Mr. Miller pressed him about a conversation that the prosecutor suggested he had in late 2002 with a young man named Kamel in an Islamic bookstore in Brooklyn where Mr. Siraj worked.

“Sir, did you say to Kamel at any point, ‘Inshallah, America will be attacked again very soon’?” Mr. Miller asked, using the Arabic word for “God willing.”

“I don’t remember,” Mr. Siraj responded.

“You’re saying you did not say it?” the prosecutor asked.

“I’m saying I don’t remember,” Mr. Siraj said.

Mr. Miller also questioned him about a conversation that the prosecutor said occurred on Nov. 15, 2002. He asked whether Mr. Siraj had told Kamel, whom he identified as a friend of Mr. Siraj’s, “that suicide bombings in Israel are O.K. because Palestinians have no chance to get even.”

Mr. Siraj said he did not remember.

His lawyers said that they expect the government to call Kamel, who was not further identified yesterday, as a witness later in the trial to try to rebut their client’s testimony.

The prosecution rested its case on Thursday after nearly three weeks of testimony, including eight days by Mr. Eldawoody, the informer. They played portions of several dozen secretly recorded conversations in which Mr. Siraj talked about blowing up bridges and the subway station and seeking nuclear materials. Mr. Siraj’s lawyers, who are seeking to show that their client was entrapped, will present testimony from two people, Mr. Siraj and his mother. The lawyers had sought to call Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly as a witness, but the judge in the case, Nina Gershon, ruled against that yesterday.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Siraj, dressed in a dark blue pinstripe suit, told the jury that Mr. Eldawoody, a 50-year-old Egyptian-born nuclear engineer, began to spend more time in the bookstore, which is next to the Islamic Center of Bay Ridge, talking about United States policies in the Middle East.

“At some point, did you become more interested in politics than you were before you met Mr. Eldawoody?” asked his lawyer, Mr. Wahid.

“Yes,” Mr. Siraj said.

He added that he became enraged by images found on the Internet that purported to show an American soldier setting a dog upon a handcuffed 13-year-old Iraqi girl and the dog raping the child.

“I got basically involved when I saw a picture of a small girl that was getting raped by a dog,” he said.

Mr. Siraj said the older man had talked about “blowing up the buildings and blowing up the Wall Street places” and had told him that there was a fatwa, or religious edict, that permitted the killing of United States soldiers, police officers or F.B.I. agents.

“I used to just listen to him, but I never said ‘yes, I was going to do it,’ or ‘no’ until the Abu Ghraib thing came up,” he said.

Mr. Siraj said he came up with the idea to bomb the 34th Street subway station after the March 2004 commuter train bombings in Madrid.

Mr. Wahid asked him whether it had occurred to him that setting off a bomb in Manhattan “could hurt a lot of people.”

“Yeah, in the end I did realize, and I felt really bad about it,” he said. “I was just — I made a plan and I was just trying to save the people in Iraq. That’s basically what I was thinking, to stop the abuse in Iraq.”

Several times during his questioning by Mr. Wahid, he seemed to become emotional, his voice breaking.

Toward the end, he said, he tried to remove himself from the plot. At one point, he said, he even made up an excuse about heavy security in Manhattan in an effort to get Mr. Eldawoody to call off a trip to conduct surveillance in the subway.

Earlier yesterday, Mr. Siraj’s mother, Shahina Parveen, 52, testified that her son was a below-average student who played video games and cricket and watched cartoons.

With the assistance of a translator, Speaking in Urdu through a translator, she said that he had passed some of his classes and failed others.

“I would not say he’s not smart,” she said, “but I will say that he’s immature, based on his age.”

See our last posts on paranoia in New York City and dubious terror cases in the metro area.