Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
Use of Informants in Terror Cases May Create Entrapment, NYU Report Claims
Monday, May 23, 2011
The use of informants in high-profile terror cases constitutes a form of entrapment that targets Muslim Americans, a new report issued by New York University's School of Law charges.
The report argues FBI and NYPD informants incited violence during circumstances in which there otherwise would not have been, pointing to three terror cases: Newburgh 4, Shahawar Matin Siraj and the Fort Dix 5. The report was issued by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University's School of Law.
"In the cases this report examines, the government's informants held themselves out as Muslims and looked in particular to incite other Muslims to commit acts of violence," according to the report. "The government's informants introduced and aggressively pushed ideas about violent jihad and, moreover, actually encouraged the defendants to believe it was their duty to take action against the United States."
In the case of the Fort Dix, New Jersey terror plot, prosecutors zeroed in on videos showing the defendants firing automatic weapons and shouting "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great," while calling for jihad. But report co-author Amna Akbar argued that "nothing of concern would've happened" had it not been for the active encouragement of the paid informant, adding that "the role the government is playing is very dangerous."
Asim Rehman, an attorney and vice president of the Muslim Bar Association of New York, the report touches on the deep mistrust within the Muslim community for law enforcement agencies. The relationships between communities and government agencies, he said, "are based on trust and a sense of legitimacy."
"While law enforcement like using tools like informants, they don't recognize that sending informants to target individuals and espouse pretty extreme views, does pretty deep damage to the trust between members of that congregation and law enforcement," said Rehman.
FBI spokesman Paul Bresson wrote: "We do not investigate people based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment, or based solely on their race, ethnicity, national origin or religious affiliation."
The NYPD did not respond to questions about the report.