Article — From the August 2011 issue

To Catch a Terrorist

The FBI hunts for the enemy within

To fear and dehumanize alien Others, to ruthlessly hunt them down, is truly American.—Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, This Violent Empire

In June 2008, I attended a meeting in Albany organized by the FBI and designed to quell the growing fury over the arrest and prosecution of two local Muslim immigrants, Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain. The previous year Aref and Hossain, both leaders at a local mosque, had been sentenced to fifteen years in federal prison in connection with their role in a terrorism scheme that the press had dubbed the Albany “missile plot.” According to the FBI complaint, the pair had agreed to “make money through jihad” by laundering the proceeds from the sale of a shoulder-launched missile that a Pakistani militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, intended to use to assassinate a Pakistani diplomat in New York City. Yet in announcing the arrest of Aref and Hossain, the FBI allowed that their crimes were “not real” and that the public had never actually been in jeopardy. The plot had been a sting operation wherein the FBI concocted the assassination plan and furnished the weapon. Though much of the evidence against the two men remained classified, it was unclear that either man even knew he was involved in a terrorist plot.

When these details emerged, both Muslims and non-Muslims in Albany were outraged. The investigation had targeted two well-known members of the community, men with no prior criminal record and no history of violence. To allay the community’s concerns, the FBI embarked on a kind of public-relations initiative by organizing a series of meetings with local leaders. At the meeting I went to with half a dozen activists, we were told we could take notes but not record the proceedings, though one of the attendees, in what she considered an act of civil disobedience, surreptitiously taped them anyway. After some opening statements from FBI spokesman Paul Holstein, who told us that the point of the meeting was to prove that the FBI “did the right thing,” we watched a Power­Point presentation that began with ominous chanting, which I found out later was an Islamic prayer song. The first image identified the sting operation by its code name, Green Grail, and showed a photograph of the defendants with glowering expressions as guards led them in shackles from Albany’s federal courthouse.

Following the presentation, the agent in charge of the case, Tim Coll, explained how the FBI had built its investigation, which began shortly after the 9/11 attacks when one of the founders of Aref and Hossain’s mosque, a man named Ali Yaghi, was “observed celebrating the 9/11 attacks on the streets.” Yaghi, though never charged with any terrorism-related crime, was arrested and deported soon after, but the mosque remained under surveillance. The FBI subsequently learned Aref had called a “hot” telephone that investigators believed was a possible Al Qaeda contact number in Syria, where Aref had once lived. Coll also recounted how in a “dumpster dive” conducted by agents in a separate case in Syracuse, Aref’s name had turned up in a letter that described him as a “loyal representative” of a group believed to have offshoots connected to Al Qaeda.

Over the course of the eight-month sting operation, beginning in July 2003, the government’s informant, posing as a wealthy Pakistani businessman, befriended Hossain, a pizzeria owner and father of six. The informant visited Hossain regularly, eventually offering to loan him $50,000 to bolster his struggling business. FBI agents would later acknowledge that Hossain was nothing more than “a way to get in,” a means to catch Aref, who, in keeping with Islamic tradition, was brought in to witness the handover.

What made the deal illegal, according to prosecutors, occurred four months into the operation during a meeting in the informant’s office. Pulling back a tarp in his stockroom to reveal a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile, the informant told Hossain, “I also do this business for my Muslim brothers.” Prosecutors claimed that Hossain should have been able to deduce that the loan he was receiving might be drawn from proceeds of an illegal weapons sale, and that by accepting the loan he had opened himself to charges of money laundering. Aref himself never saw the weapon. During one of the exchanges of cash—all of which were documented on grainy black-and-white surveillance footage—the missile’s trigger system, which looked not unlike a staple gun, was visible on a table. Prosecutors alleged Aref had seen the trigger and thereby had entered the conspiracy to “assist in money-laundering.”

It’s difficult not to make the FBI’s case sound contrived in this recounting, but the agents I spoke with seemed to genuinely believe that Aref was a potential terrorist. Whatever the peculiarities of the plot they used to ensnare him, Aref was an extremist at heart. Their belief was supported by materials they’d found at his apartment after his arrest, including poetry he’d written with phrases like “raise the jihad sword,” in a diary he’d kept before coming to the United States, in which he also chronicled meetings with individuals who were known to have discussed attacking the United States.

At the time of Aref and Hossain’s arrest, U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Comey admitted it was “not the case of the century.” Nevertheless, the Albany missile plot became one of the government’s more lauded victories in the fight against domestic terrorism—even though, by the government’s own acknowledgment, it involved no terrorists, no terrorism plot, and a missile provided by the FBI. When asked at a press conference following the sentencing whether there was anything connecting the defendants, particularly Aref, to terrorism, the prosecuting attorney answered, “Well, we didn’t have the evidence of that, but he had the ideology.”

Previous PageNext Page
1 of 7
also wrote <a href=" ">"The Intelligence Factory: How America makes its enemies disappear"</a> for <em>Harper's Magazine</em>

More from Petra Bartosiewicz:

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

  • Terry Wagar

    Gang-stalking is a target specific sting operation organized and funded by local authority’s and their accomplices and informants and by anyone else law enforcement recruits into it!

    These sting operations are similar to regular sting operations and many tactics of sting operations are used in gang-stalking specific targets!

    These specific sting operations consist generally of a three pronged attack on their target!

    1. They take full control of the targets surrounding area around the targets home in order to control the area and to organize staged crimes using under cover officer’s that perform for their video surveillance, police/sheriff’s accomplish this by using their police powers to covertly take control of their targets surrounding area near the targets home!

    Under cover police and their accomplices will take several months to a couple years staging crimes near their target and near their targets home and will even dress up like their target and act as doubles for photogenic photo’s in order to frame their target for crimes (building a case against target!).

    2. Under cover police/sheriff’s will Gas-light their target heavily for their video surveillance in order to put target in fear and to terrorize their target, they do this knowing their target has no way of defending against it and if target tries to warn people about it no one will take them seriously, thus the target appears to others that do not witness these crimes to be mentally ill, so Gas-lighting is a favorite tactic police use to terrorize their target with!
    Police/sheriff’s (gang-stalkers) will Gaslight their targets vehicle as well by letting air out of their tires daily and will annoy their target publicly via street theater tactics, they do this knowing any reaction the target makes will make the target appear for their video surveillance to be either a angry/dangerous person, or a mentally ill person!

    So the gang-stalkers endlessly harass and menace their target on the street wanting the target to react to their subtle harassment for the gang-stalkers video surveillance!

    Police/sheriff’s are experts in harassing people and menacing people and using subtle tactics to provoke people into acting in self defense against the harassment and provoking, and it is that act that police/sheriff’s want to get on their video surveillance cameras!

    3. Law enforcement and their bros and girlfriends will literally campaign against their target publicly behind their targets back and they do so in such a way as to make it impossible for the target to defend themselves!

    Gang-stalkers use constant slander and defamation of character accusations against their target around their targets neighborhood and in their targets place of employment and even around their targets neighbors!

    Their slander campaign is done behind the back of their target so target is unaware of it, and since it is police/sheriff’s that are doing this it is easy for them to tell people the target is a “Bad Guy” and to tell people to be on the lookout for that person!

    By the time the target suspects there is a problem it is already too late because police, using their police powers, without any trial or due process, just spent several months destroying the targets name and reputation!

    The combination of police staging crimes using doubles and their covert slandering of their target reveals what police are framing their target for, and it is fifty-fifty whether police want their target prosecuted, or whether they just want to murder off their target after framing their target!

    Many innocent people are targeted this way by police/sheriff’s and many victims are publicly pedofied by law enforcement while police/sheriff’s use doubles and photogenic photo’s to frame their target, most people falsely accused of being pedophiles end up dead after police/sheriff’s destroy their names and reputations!

    All these tactics are tactics police/sheriff’s use on a daily basis, and your news reporters are fully aware of these practices and are mums the word about it because news reporters always lie for Fascist minded law enforcement officer’s and cover up and conceal these tactics from the general population!

    Many people not in law enforcement join in on the targeting and are recruited into these crimes, many people are involved into these crimes because they were Grandfathered into it because these type of crimes have been going on for many decades!

    Gang-stalking, or whatever term you want to call it by, is a sting operation that is tailored specifically to a particular target, what happens to one target may vary from target to target, but the general tactics are used in almost all targeting!

    • bob k

      Go after the terrosists relatives and family.hold them for Ransome until the criminals surrender. This will change the play field putting terrosists in danger of losing the only thing that might be important to them.


September 2015

A Goose in a Dress

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Genealogy of Orals

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Neoliberal Arts

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Gangs of Karachi

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content