Muslims

Entrapping Innocent Muslims

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A recent New York University School of Law Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) report is titled, “Targeted and Entrapped: Manufacturing the ‘Homegrown Threat’ in the United States.”

Post-9/11, Muslims have been ruthlessly targeted. Paid informants have infested mosques and their communities to entrap them. As a result, over 200 were persecuted on bogus terrorism related charges. Despite “tout(ing) these cases as successes in the so-called war against terrorism….former (FBI) agents, local lawmakers,” and many others “have begun questioning the legitimacy and efficacy” of entrapping innocent victims for political advantage.

CHRGJ discussed several high-profile cases, using well-paid informants often performing services in return for reduced charges or sentences they face, a powerful incentive to cooperate.

Nearly always, Washington invents plots foiled in the nick of time, entrapping innocent victims with no intent to commit crimes. America’s media headline them. The public feels safer with no idea they’ve been scammed or that blameless citizens and residents are falsely charged.

In fact, calling Muslims “potential threats” or “homegrown terrorists” violates core constitutional freedoms. Nonetheless, it’s now common law enforcement practice assuming that:

— Muslims are more likely to become terrorists;

— they’re increasingly “radicalized” and compelled to commit violence in the name of Islam; and

— counterterrorism policies should identify and stop them before they act.

In fact, research contradicts these notions. Moreover, relying on them violates fundamental human rights long ago discarded for political and judicial expediency. As a result, Muslims most often face terrorism charges because “they hate us” or other spurious reasons.

Muslim men (and “Muslim looking people) are especially vulnerable. In addition, Muslim culture and religious practices are also cited as indicators of potential terrorism. As a result, they’re maliciously targeted, surveilled, investigated, entrapped, charged, unjustly prosecuted, and convicted.

Notably, a 2007 NYPD report titled, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat” popularized these beliefs, using “thinly sourced, reductionist” notions, claiming:

“the path to terrorism has a fixed trajectory and that each step of the process has specific, identifiable markers,” despite no corroborating evidence. In fact, research suggests the opposite, exposing racist, discriminatory beliefs and practices.

In fact, Washington uses these notions maliciously, targeting innocent Muslims for their faith and ethnicity. Moreover, in February, Senator Joe Lieberman called on the National and Homeland Security Councils to develop “a comprehensive national approach to countering homegrown radicalization to violent Islamist extremism.

In March, Rep. Peter King chaired a racist congressional hearing, duplicitously claiming radicalized Muslims are increasing at an alarming rate, endangering US security. In fact, the only law enforcement witness testifying refuted his accusations.

Most alarming is that Obama’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS), FBI, and Justice Department (DOJ) all embrace racist radicalization notions to entrap innocent victims with “preventive” policing nearly always with no evidence of wrongdoing. Instead of pursuing criminals, they target people for their faith, religious practices, and appearance unjustly, using well-paid informant snitches.

Post-9/11, repressive laws were enacted to facilitate the process, “resulting in the criminalization of a range of behaviors (not) indicative of….intent to commit…violent crime(s).” At the same time, law enforcement powers were recklessly expanded in violation of constitutional rights. As a result, abusive practices proliferated against Muslims, making it the wrong time for them to be here, even native born ones .

Using informants to illegally entrap is especially alarming when no legal limits constrain the targeting of one segment of society. Because of earlier COINTELPRO and other abuses, Attorney General Edward Levi (in 1976) established Guidelines “proceed(ing) from the proposition that Government monitoring of individuals or groups because they hold unpopular or controversial views is intolerable in our society.”

However, they eroded steadily, notably post-9/11, so today virtually anything goes extralegally on the pretext of national security. In 2008, Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s Guidelines were profoundly lawless, authorizing informants, surveillance, and other abusive practices in cases involving no suspected criminality.

For example, FBI agents may direct informants to collect names, emails, phone numbers, and other information about devout mosque attendees, based only on their religiosity.

Specifically, intrusive “assessments” may be made in situations with no “information or….allegations indicating” wrongdoing or threat to national security. As a result, groups or meetings infiltrated covertly, attendees questioned casually, and physical surveillance of “homes, offices and individuals” conducted extralegally.

The FBI’s Domestic Investigative Operational Guidelines (DIOGs) are used this way without supervisory approval or constraints on abusive practices. As a result, virtually anything goes, primarily against one segment of society, creating a troubling law enforcement standard common in police states unencumbered by laws.

Moreover, even though the 2003 DOJ Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies bans profiling by race and ethnicity, it implicitly permits doing so for faith and national origin purposes, as well as targeting anyone for national and border security purposes.

The Mukasey Guidelines also permit illegal entrapment and other abusive practices. As a result, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies lawlessly target Muslim communities to identify potential terrorists. In fact, New York city guidelines specifically permit intrusive investigations of “potential terrorist activity before an unlawful act occurs.”

Unconstrained informants are used, subject only to Deputy Commissioner of the Intelligence Division directives. As a result, “NYPD has become a leading advocate for law enforcement based on the flawed radicalization model,” authorizing illegal acts, including “inducement(s)….to engage in crim(inal)” activity to facilitate entrapment.

FBI guidelines also authorize expansive powers, including targeting individuals or groups for their views or religious practices. Critics include former FBI counterterrorism agent (now ACLU Senior Policy Counsel) Mike German, saying “the FBI (is) out of compliance with its (own) guidelines to an extraordinary extent,” by providing few checks on illegal practices, including entrapment.

It occurs when law enforcement officials or agents induce, influence, or provoke crimes that otherwise wouldn’t be committed. However, it doesn’t apply in willing lawlessness instances, government merely aiding, abetting, or facilitating chances to do so.

Specifically, it involves:

— government officials or agents initiating the idea; then

— persuading individuals to discuss, plan or commit actions they otherwise never intended.

To convict, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt no entrapment was used. In fact, it’s common against innocent people, especially Muslims targeted for political or other reasons.

CHRGJ concluded that “types of evidence relied upon by the government in terrorism-related prosecutions are highly prejudicial, and build on the conflation of Muslim religious practice, political opinions critical of US foreign policy, and (alleged) terrorism. The prejudicial nature of relying on such evidence is magnified” by entrapment, claiming defendants’ are predisposed to commit crimes, based on fabricated, secret, or other evidence to prejudice, pressure, and intimidate juries to convict.

Based on empirical research, however, no link exists between religion or political views and a propensity to commit violent acts. Nonetheless, most convictions result from bogusly conflating them as proof of “intent or predisposition.”

As a result, victims are usually defenseless against abusive government practices, including through wrongful conviction civil rights lawsuits right-wing courts rule against or disallow, especially in national security related cases involving alleged terrorism or conspiracy to commit it.

CHRGJ covered several case examples, including David Williams, one of “the Newburgh Four (NY)”, bogusly charged with plotting to blow up a Bronx synagogue and shoot down military aircraft with Stinger surface-to-air missiles. Using an FBI sting, an informant was lawlessly used to entrap them. Despite no plot or crime, they were arrested, charged and convicted.

Another case involved Eljvir, Dristan and Shain Duka, three of the Fort Dix Five, falsely charged and convicted on multiple counts, including planning to attack US soldiers at Fort Dix, NJ, despite no plot, crime or legitimate evidence. Another entrapment sting operation was used.

A third case involved Shahawar Siraj Matin, also entrapped by a police informant in an alleged subway bombing plot despite no crime or intent to commit one.

Another case involves two Bowling Green, KY Iraqis (Mohanad Shareef Hammadi and Waad Ramadan Alwan) beyond the study’s timeline, the Louisville Courier-Journal saying on May 31 they were indicted on terrorism charges.

Specifically, they were charged with “conspiring to kill US soldiers with improvised explosive devices in Iraq,” as well as plans to send Stinger missiles, cash, sniper rifles, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers to Iraq.

In fact, the alleged plot is as implausible as attacking Fort Dix, downing military aircraft, attacking marines at Quantico, VA, bombing New York landmarks, and other concocted schemes to entrap and convict innocent victims.

A Final Comment

CHRGJ said “practices described in the Report raise serious concerns about the US government’s compliance with its international human rights obligations,” including rights to a fair trial, non-discrimination, freedom of expression, religion, and other rights under US and international law.

Federal, state, and local enforcement agencies systematically violate them to target and convict unjustly, sending innocent victims to prison for being Muslims in America at the wrong time, leaving everyone just as vulnerable.

As a result, it’s “proved impossible for” victims “to gain redress” at a time imperial priorities take precedence. Its ravages are felt abroad and at home, especially by Muslim families.

Wives lose husbands, children their fathers, and wrongfully convicted Muslim men their freedom, some for decades or the rest of their lives to satisfy America’s lust for conquest and domination, no matter the human cost.

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Solidarity with Palestine

Ahead of May 15 Nakba commemorations, massive crowds assembled in Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square in solidarity. They displayed banners, proclaiming, “The People want the Rafah Crossing opened,” and “Palestine is a Arab state.”

They also waved Palestinian flags, chanting “Solidarity with the Palestinian Intifada” and “National Unity” ahead of a planned weekend march to Gaza. More on that below.

Domestic issues were also addressed, including ending recent sectarian violence and concerns about popular unaddressed issues under military junta rule. After Friday prayers, Sheikh Safwat Hegazy addressed the crowd, saying:

“(Appointed prime minister) Essam Sharaf: this is not your government. This is the revolution’s government. You should kick out the six former (NDP ruling party) ministers from the cabinet. We won’t accept (deputy prime minister) Yehia El-Gamal who’s part of the former regime….”

In response, crowds chanted, “Down, down Yehia El-Gamal.” One participant, identified only as Mohammad, spoke for others, saying:

“Sharaf’s government is taking the same path as the former government. They have the same double standards, secrecy and authoritarian policy-making in internal (and) external affairs.”

Though Egypt’s spring hasn’t bloomed, its spirit pervades Tahrir, suggesting perhaps renewed uprisings ahead. For now, however, Egyptians head for Gaza in solidarity with Palestinian liberation, a goal millions around the world support, as well as a Third Intifada to achieve it.

Surprisingly, however, despite MENA region (Middle East/North Africa) Morocco to Oman to Syria uprisings, Palestinians haven’t yet reacted, except for regular small-scale demonstrations far short of large masses throughout Egypt and neighboring countries, posing challenges for ruling authorities.

Yet nowhere is regional abuse more extreme, including occupation, isolation, land theft, mass arrests, torture, targeted assassinations, daily terror, and at times war, causing thousands of casualties and widespread destruction.

Perhaps Egypt’s solidarity march will inspire what hasn’t yet occurred, under the slogan, “Cairo’s liberation will not be complete without the liberation of Al-Quds (Jerusalem).”

According to Justice and Freedom Youth Movement’s Ahmed Doma:

“We are organizing this event as part of the Arab Internet call for a third Palestinian Intifada, and as part of what has been termed ‘the Arab mass march.’ ”

Facebook was used, urging that regional Arabs march en masse to Egyptian, Lebanese, Syrian, and Jordanian/Israeli borders, demanding what Palestinians have long sought, including liberation, ending occupation, the right of return, and East Jerusalem as its capital.

Participating Egyptians also want:

— Rafah’s border crossing permanently open, permitting free movement of people and goods;

— halting Egypt’s sale of gas to Israel;

— ending all “humiliating agreements with the Zionist state;” and

— immediate release of all Palestinians in Egyptian prisons.

On May 14 at noon Cairo time, marchers headed for Gaza, expecting to arrive that evening ahead of planned May 15 Nakba day rallies. At the same time, protesters demonstrated in front of Israel’s Giza embassy and its ambassador’s Maadi residence.

We are All Resistance member Arwa said “other convoys heading to Palestine are moving from Alexandria, Suez, Damietta and North Sinai. People will also join convoys from Gharbiya, Beni Suef, Assiut, Qena and Sohag” in a mass show of solidarity.

Cairo participating groups include:

— the National Front for Justice and Democracy;

— Cairo University’s Supporters of the Palestinian Revolution;

— the Justice and Freedom Youth Movement,

— Kifaya;

— We are All the Resistance Movement;

— Helwan University’s Resistance Movement;

— Ultras Ahlawy Ahly football club supporters;

— Zamalek club White Knights;

— Activists for Palestine;

— the Palestinian Women’s Coalition;

— the April 6 Movement;

— the Nasserist Party; and

— various independent activists.

In Tel Aviv, Israel’s Zochrot organization also shows support, defying the imposed ban on Nakba commemorations by posting a sign in German saying “we remember.” Other Israelis joined them in solidarity.

On its web site (zochrot.org), it:

“seeks to raise public awareness of the Palestinian Nakba, especially among Jews in Israel, who bear a special responsibility to remember and amend the legacy of 1948.”

Palestinians were victimized, losing “their entire world. But Jews in Israel also pay a price for their conquest,” living with the criminal legacy Palestinians and global supporters won’t forget. Zochrot’s goal is “recognition for injustice and new paths toward change and repair,” including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, saying:

“Return is fundamental to resolving the conflict and implementation of return need not cause injustice to Jewish people….in Israel.” It doesn’t mean expelling them. In fact, “the very opposite: The mutual existence of Palestinians and Jews in the country,” co-existing together peacefully. Return can thus free two societies from the destructive occupier/occupied relationship, ending a longstanding intolerable blight.

As a result, Zochrot will participate in March of Return activities, its site saying its members will visit Miska village, destroyed and ethnically cleaned by Israelis in 1948. They’ll then join the March of Return in al-Damun and al-Ruways villages, also demolished in 1948.

Ahead of May 15 demonstrations, Haaretz writers Anshel Pfeffer, Jack Khoury and Nir Hasson headlined, “Israeli – Palestinian tensions rise in Jerusalem, West Bank as Nabka Day nears,” explaining that:

Clashes erupted between IDF soldiers and Palestinians throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem Friday morning, including in Silwan, Isawiya and the Old City. Israeli police arrested 11 protesters. IDF soldiers used rubber bullets, tear gas, and heavy-handed thuggishness, assaulting nonviolent demonstrators.

Several injuries were reported, including an American and 17-year old Milad Said Ayyash, shot in the head Friday at close range with a high-velocity tear gas cannister and killed. At his Saturday funeral, two Palestinians were wounded. Others were arrested.

Further, Haaretz said “(t)ens of thousands of Palestinian refugees will converge in Maroun al-Ras, a village in southern Lebanon that was a major point of fighting between the IDF and Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon War. A parallel demonstration will also be held on the Israeli side of the Lebanon border in Avivim….where demonstrations will be staged concurrently with” a planned Maroun al-Ras rally.

The International Middle East Media Center also reported on May 13 IDF – Palestinian clashes, including:

— Israelis blocking roads, impeding weekly Bil’in anti-wall protesters from traveling to established sites;

— arresting 34 West Bank/East Jerusalem protesters; and

— wounding 22 Palestinians in Nabi Saleh near Ramallah, including photo-journalist Hilmi Tamimi.

Moreover, Italian and Malaysian activists arrived in Gaza, including friends of slain activist/journalist Vittorio Arrigoni. They’ll join growing numbers of others in solidarity for Palestinian liberation and justice.

However, according to Press TV on May 14, Egyptian authorities blocked access to Sinai, preventing activists from reaching Rafah. Also, buses to transport other supporters didn’t arrive. Nonetheless, “a convoy left Cairo’s Liberation square on Saturday,” hoping to show Palestinian solidarity on the Gaza/Rafah border.

A Final Comment

On May 12, a Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) report said Israeli soldiers and settlers killed 7,342 Palestinians from September 29, 2000 (start of the second Intifada) through December 31, 2010.

PCBS also said Israeli security forces “kidnapped” nearly 750,000 Palestinians since June 1967, including 12,000 women and many children, targeted for wanting freedom in their own land.

Occupation harshness continues daily throughout the West Bank, East Jerusalem and besieged Gaza. On May 15, regional solidarity will converge in Gaza, along Egyptian, Lebanese, Jordanian, and Syrian border areas, and perhaps other locations worldwide, commemorating Nakba day for what Palestinians have long sought – liberation on their own land in their own country. Long overdue, it can’t come a moment too soon.

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