Yesterday, the FBI arrested another fake terrorist, just one in a long line of potential “terrorists” who have been given training and equipment by the government and then busted as they try to carry out their “plots”–plots that seem to have been designed by–or at least strongly encouraged by–FBI agents. From The Washington Post:
Federal authorities on Friday arrested a 29-year-old Moroccan man in an alleged plot to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol, the latest in a series of terrorism-related arrests resulting from undercover sting operations.
For more than a year, Amine El Khalifi, of Alexandria, considered attacking targets including a synagogue, an Alexandria building with military offices and a Washington restaurant frequented by military officials, authorities said. When arrested a few blocks from the Capitol around lunchtime on Friday, he was carrying what he believed to be a loaded automatic weapon and a suicide vest ready for detonation.
The gun and vest were provided not by al-Qaeda, as Khalifi had been told, but by undercover FBI agents who rendered them inoperable, authorities said.
They said Khalifi had been the subject of a lengthy investigation and never posed a threat to the public….
Khalifi “allegedly believed he was working with al-Qaeda,” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Khalifi “devised the plot, the targets and the methods on his own.”
The Washington Post must think Americans are stupid. Emptywheel, who has done a great deal of research on these FBI sting operations, doesn’t seem to think Khalifi planned the “attack” by himself.
As is usual with most of FBI’s terrorist arrests of late, the FBI provided the suspect with the weapons he would have used to attack the target–in this case, the Capitol. As is usual, this appears to be an instance where the FBI found someone talking about violence–usually online–and then cultivated that violent desire over time.
So it seems like this is a now-familiar story.
Later in the post, she writes:
The FBI says his own plan was to be dropped off at the Capitol building.
But what happened instead is he did a Deep Throat in a parking garage to get his empty suicide vest.
So whose plan was he implementing, again?
I’m mentioning this arrest yesterday, because we’ve seen this repeated again and again. The FBI announces a big arrest and then later we learn that the whole plan was hatched by FBI agents who sucked in some angry kid and convinced him to commit some “terrorist act.”
On Thursday, just one day before the latest big FBI “terrorism” bust in DC, the so-called Underwear Bomber was sentenced to life in prison. ABC News (which also seems to think we’re stupid):
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was the same remorseless man who four months ago pleaded guilty to all charges related to Northwest Airlines Flight 253. He seemed to relish the mandatory sentence and defended his actions as rooted in the Muslim holy book, the Quran.
“Mujahideen are proud to kill in the name of God,” he said. “Today is a day of victory.”
Had the bomb not fizzled, nearly 300 people aboard the flight would probably have been killed.
The case stirred renewed fears that terrorists could still bring down an American jetliner more than eight years after 9/11, and it accelerated installation of body scanners at the nation’s airports.
Please note that Abdulmutallab “was subdued by fellow passengers,” not anyone from law enforcement. Before the sentencing, four passengers and a member of the crew from Flight 253 were allowed to give victim impact statements. One of those statements came from Detroit attorney Kurt Haskell, whom the ABC “news” story characterizes as follows:
Because he was a passenger, Detroit-area lawyer Kurt Haskell was allowed to publicly repeat his wild claim that the U.S. government outfitted Abdulmutallab with a defective bomb partly to force the rollout of body-imaging machines at airports.
Is Haskell really making a “wild claim?” Here is his statement to the court:
I wish to thank the Court for allowing me these 5 minutes to make my statement. My references to the government in this statement refer to the Federal Government excluding this Court and the prosecution. On Christmas Day 2009, my wife and I were returning from an African safari and had a connecting flight through Amsterdam. As we waited for our flight, we sat on the floor next to the boarding gate. What I witnessed while sitting there and subsequent events have changed my life forever. While I sat there, I witnessed Umar dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt, being escorted around security by a man in a tan suit who spoke perfect American English and who aided Umar in boarding without a passport. The airline gate worker initially refused Umar boarding until the man in the tan suit intervened. The event meant nothing to me at the time. Little did I know that Umar would try to kill me a few hours later as our flight approached Detroit. The final 10 minutes of our flight after the attack were the worst minutes of my life. During those 10 minutes I sat paralyzed in fear. Unfortunately, what happened next has had an even greater impact on my life and has saddened me further.
When we landed, I was shocked that our plane taxied up to the gate. I was further shocked that we were forced to sit on the plane for 20 minutes with powder from the so called bomb all over the cabin. The officers that boarded the plane did nothing to ensure our safety and did not check for accomplices or other explosive devices. Several passengers trampled through parts of the bomb as they exited the plane. We were then taken into the terminal with our unchecked carry on bags. Again, there was no concern for our safety even though Umar told the officers that there was another bomb on board as he exited the plane. I wondered why nobody was concerned about our safety, accomplices or other bombs and the lack of concern worried me greatly. I immediately told the FBI my story in order to help catch the accomplice I had seen in Amsterdam. It soon became obvious that the FBI wasn’t interested in what I had to say, which upset me further. For one month the government refused to admit the existence of the man in the tan suit before changing course and admitting his existence in an ABC News article on January 22, 2010. That was the last time the government talked about this man. The video that would prove the truth of my account has never been released. I continue to be emotional upset that the video has not been released. The Dutch police, meanwhile, in this article (show article), also confirmed that Umar did not show his passport in Amsterdam which also meant that he didn’t go through security as both are in the same line in Amsterdam. It upsets me that the government refuses to admit this fact.
I became further saddened from this case, when Patrick Kennedy of the State Department during Congressional hearings, admitted that Umar was a known terrorist, was being followed, and the U.S. allowed him into the U.S. so that it could catch Umar’s accomplices. I was once again shocked and saddened when Michael Leiter of the National Counter terrorism Center admitted during these same hearings that intentionally letting terrorists into the U.S. was a frequent practice of the U.S. Government. I cannot fully explain my sadness, disappointment and fear when I realized that my government allowed an attack on me intentionally.
During this time, I questioned if my country intentionally put a known terrorist onto my flight with a live bomb. I had many sleepless nights over this issue. My answer came shortly thereafter. In late 2010, the FBI admitted to giving out intentionally defective bombs to the Portland Christmas Tree Bomber,the Wrigley Field Bomber and several others. Further, Mr. Chambers was quoted in the Free Press on January 11, 2011 when he indicated that the government’s own explosives experts had indicated that Umar’s bomb was impossibly defective. I wondered how that could be. Certainly, I thought, Al Qaeda wouldn’t go through all of the trouble to plan such an attack only to provide the terrorist with an impossibly defective bomb.
I attended nearly all of the pretrial hearings. At the hearing on January 28, 2011, I was greatly disappointed by the prosecution’s request to block evidence from Mr. Chambers “as it could then be able to be obtained by third parties, who could use it in a civil suit against the government”. It really bothered me that the government apparently was admitting to wrongdoing of some kind as it admitted that it was concerned it would be sued. It further upset me to know that the government was putting its own interests ahead of those of the passengers.
When I attended the jury selection hearings, I questioned why versions of the same two questions kept coming up, those being:
1. Do you think whether you’ll be able to tell whether something is actually a bomb? and
2. Do you realize that sometimes the media doesn’t always tell the truth?
I continued to be greatly saddened at this point as I felt the truth continued to be hidden.
When Umar listed me as his only witness, I was happy to testify, not on his behalf, but on behalf of the truth. I never expected to testify, as my eyewitness account would have been too damaging to the myth that the government and media are putting forward. A mere 5 days after I was announced as a witness, there was an inexplicable guilty plea which exasperated me as I no longer would be testifying.
In closing I will just say that regardless of how the media and government try to shape the public perception of this case, I am convinced that Umar was given an intentionally defective bomb by a U.S. Government agent and placed on our flight without showing a passport or going through security, to stage a false terrorist attack to be used to implement various government policies.
The effect this matter has had on my life has been astounding and due to this case, I will never trust the government in any matter, ever.
In regards to sentencing, nothing I’ve said excuses the fact that Umar tried to kill me. He has waived his valid claim to the entrapment defense. Umar, you are not a great Muslim martyr, you are merely a “Patsy”. I ask the court to impose the mandatory sentence.
Haskell’s wife Lori says that she was treated pretty badly by the judge in the case. No one really wanted her or her husband to tell about what they saw and experienced on Christmas Day 2009.
I imagine Joseph Cannon and/or Emptywheel will write about this case again soon. They are both much better at this kind of thing than I am, so I thought I would just lay the facts out for you as I see them. If you are interested in more information, you can read Cannon’s previous posts on the underwear bomber here and Emptywheel’s here.
What do you think? (Keeping in mind that former DHS head Michael Chertoff made big bucks from the naked body scanners now being used by the TSA.)
For today’s morning reads, I’m going to focus on an important story that has long fascinated me: the anthrax attacks of 2001 and the FBI’s investigation of the case, which they dubbed “Amerithrax.” Did the FBI fail to really follow through on the investigation because of incompetence? Or is the government hiding something?
I’m sure you recall that just a week after the September 11 attacks, envelopes containing anthrax spores were mailed to several media offices and to Democratic Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. Five people died from anthrax poisoning and seventeen others were infected, but survived. The UCLA School of Public health provides a list of anthrax attacks outbreaks in the U.S., including those related to the 2001 anthrax letters.
The Bush administration tried to suggest that Iraq was somehow behind the attacks, but that hypothesis fell through when the chemical signature of the anthrax from the envelopes was shown to have come from a U.S. lab. The FBI then focused on Dr. Steven Hatfill, bio-weapons expert and virologist. When the FBI named Hatfill as a “person of interest,” the media went into a feeding frenzy, completely destroying this man’s career and reputation. In the end the government had to pay him a $5.8 million settlement.
In 2005, after the case against Hatfill fell apart, the agency found a new scapegoat in Bruce Ivins, an emotionally troubled bio-defense scientist at Ft. Detrick in Maryland. Ft. Detrick is notorious for its connection with the MKULTRA project and the mysterious suicide of distinguished researcher Frank Olson, who had been (probably) unknowingly dosed with LSD a couple of days earlier. But I digress. From the LA Times:
By the mid-1970s, Bruce Ivins had earned his doctorate and was a promising researcher at the University of North Carolina. By outward appearances, he was a charming eccentric, odd but disarming. Inside, he still smoldered with resentment, and he saw a new outlet for it.
Several years earlier, a Cincinnati student had turned him down for a date. He had projected his anger onto the young woman’s sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma. There was a Kappa house in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Ivins cased the building. One night when it was empty, he slipped in through a bathroom window and roamed the darkened floors with a penlight.
Upstairs, he found something that fascinated him: a glass-enclosed sheaf of documents, called a cipher, necessary for decoding the sorority’s secrets. The cipher would help him wage a personal war against Kappa Kappa Gamma into the sixth decade of his life.
This was the side of himself that Ivins kept carefully hidden. He devised sneaky ways to strike anonymously at people or institutions he imagined had offended him. He harbored murderous fantasies about women who did not reciprocate his overtures. He bought bomb-making ingredients and kept firearms, ammunition and body armor in his basement.
Yet Ivins managed to work his way into the heart of the American biodefense establishment, becoming a respected Army scientist and an authority on the laboratory use of anthrax.
In fact, Ivins obsession with Kappa Kappa Gamma was the main connection the FBI had between Ivins and the anthrax letters–they were mailed from a box in Princeton, New Jersey that wasn’t far from a business office rented by the sorority. Jim White at Emptywheel writes:
One former object of Ivins’ attentions, researcher Nancy Haigwood, is relied upon almost exclusively for making the leap from Ivins’ obsession with the sorority to his role in the anthrax attacks….Haigwood began to suspect Ivins in the attacks because of an email he sent to her and others in November, 2001 highlighting his work with the anthrax isolated from the attacks. In one a photo in the email, he is handling culture plates without gloves, a break of containment protocol for working with such dangerous material. Haigwood felt that by sending out this photo, Ivins was emphasizing his immunity to anthrax because he had been vaccinated.
Haigwood later suggested Ivins to the FBI as a suspect, and the agency used pretzel logic to build a connection between Ivins’ Kappa fixation and the mailbox used in the anthrax attacks. But White explains that
this shaky claim already has been thoroughly destroyed. In this post from August, 2008,
Marcy [Emptywheel] showed that Ivins’ work records–from data released by the FBI–indicate that it would not have been possible for him to make the round trip to Princeton and put the letters in the mailbox with them getting the appropriate postmark[.]
Ivins committed suicide in 2008 by taking an overdose of Tylenol–after years of being followed and spied upon by the FBI and named as “an extremely sensitive suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks.” After Ivins’ death, the FBI quickly closed the case and blamed the attacks on this man who could no longer defend himself and argued that no one else had been involved.
Yesterday morning, The New York Times published an article on the findings of a group of scientists who analyzed the FBI’s investigation and found it wanting. The results of their work will be published in the Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense.
[T]hree scientists argue that distinctive chemicals found in the dried anthrax spores — including the unexpected presence of tin — point to a high degree of manufacturing skill, contrary to federal reassurances that the attack germs were unsophisticated….
F.B.I. documents reviewed by The New York Times show that bureau scientists focused on tin early in their eight-year investigation, calling it an “element of interest” and a potentially critical clue to the criminal case. They later dropped their lengthy inquiry, never mentioned tin publicly and never offered any detailed account of how they thought the powder had been made.
The new paper raises the prospect — for the first time in a serious scientific forum — that the Army biodefense expert identified by the F.B.I. as the perpetrator, Bruce E. Ivins, had help in obtaining his germ weapons or conceivably was innocent of the crime.
The Times goes on to try to discredit the scientific analysis, but I just don’t buy it. Here is their summary of what the study authors had to say.
The tin is surprising because it kills micro-organisms and is used in antibacterial products. The authors of the paper say its presence in the mailed anthrax suggests that the germs, after cultivation and drying, got a specialized silicon coating, with tin as a chemical catalyst. Such coatings, known in industry as microencapsulants, are common in the manufacture of drugs and other products.
“It indicates a very special processing, and expertise,” said Martin E. Hugh-Jones, lead author of the paper and a world authority on anthrax at Louisiana State University. The deadly germs sent through the mail to news organizations and two United States senators, he added, were “far more sophisticated than needed.”
In addition to Dr. Hugh-Jones, the authors of the new paper are Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a biologist, and Stuart Jacobsen, a chemist; both have speculated publicly about the case and criticized the F.B.I. for years.
But these scientist are not the only people who have questioned the FBI’s investigation. McClatchy published an article in May on their analysis of the FBI lab reports:
Buried in FBI laboratory reports about the anthrax mail attacks that killed five people in 2001 is data suggesting that a chemical may have been added to try to heighten the powder’s potency, a move that some experts say exceeded the expertise of the presumed killer.
The lab data, contained in more than 9,000 pages of files that emerged a year after the Justice Department closed its inquiry and condemned the late Army microbiologist Bruce Ivins as the perpetrator, shows unusual levels of silicon and tin in anthrax powder from two of the five letters.
Those elements are found in compounds that could be used to weaponize the anthrax, enabling the lethal spores to float easily so they could be readily inhaled by the intended victims, scientists say.
The existence of the silicon-tin chemical signature offered investigators the possibility of tracing purchases of the more than 100 such chemical products available before the attacks, which might have produced hard evidence against Ivins or led the agency to the real culprit.
But the FBI lab reports released in late February give no hint that bureau agents tried to find the buyers of additives such as tin-catalyzed silicone polymers.
I guess it was just more convenient to blame “crazy Bruce” instead of continuing to pursue the evidence wherever it might lead.
In a book released last month, Jeanne Guilleman “a medical anthropologist, a Professor of Sociology at Boston College and a senior fellow in the Security Studies Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology,”is also highly critical of the FBI investigation.
Tonight at 9PM Eastern, the season premiere of PBS’s Frontline will “take a hard look” at the FBI’s investigation of Amerithrax. I plan to watch, and I hope you will too.
I think it may be time for an independent investigation of this crime. The FBI has already had ten years to solve it, but they’ve mainly managed to destroy the lives and careers of two men and cause untold pain to their families and friends.
Now what are you reading and blogging about this morning?