My FOX Philly : Muslim Conference Leader Speaks Out

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Muslim Conference Leader Speaks Out

Not Clear If Accused Plotter Registered To Attend

May 22, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - The FBI stopped an alleged terror plot with a Philadelphia connection. You heard about it first Thursday on Fox 29 News at Noon.

An interfaith service has been held at one of the synagogues targeted in this alleged plot. And Jews attending Shabbat services and Muslims going to worship may see tighter security.

Whenever a plot of this nature is discovered, Muslim leaders say their members are often targeted with vandalism or physical violence.

And we're learning more about the conference that brought one of the alleged terrorists to Philadelphia. The theme of the conference was "Forging A Muslim-American Agenda."

The general secretary of the Muslim Alliance in North America, the organization that put on the conference, told Fox 29's Julie Kim that terrorism or a Jihad against America was not a part of that agenda.

Long before they ended up in handcuffs and charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, the four suspects in this alleged terror plot -- shown in just released court sketches -- were small-time criminals. Authorities said James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen met while in prison, where they converted to Islam.

Court documents say that the plot to target Jews originated in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Authorities said Cromitie attended the Muslim Alliance in North America conference in November, where he allegedly told an informant that he hated Jews and wanted to destroy a synagogue.

Ihsan Bagby, the general secretary of MANA, talked to Fox 29's Julie Kim on Friday, saying Cromitie was seen at the conference although they are still trying to confirm his registration.

He said MANA is mostly a social-service organization that promotes volunteerism. He said, "We condemn violence. There is no place for it in the Islam or the Muslim-American community. We speak out against extremism. Anyone who attended the conference did not hear anything like that (promoting violence). … They heard the opposite."

Authorities said it was after the conference when the men collected guns, cell phones, surveyed synagogues and purchased what they thought were real explosives and a missile system from undercover law enforcement.

The men were arrested late Wednesday night as they planted fake explosives at two synagogues in the Bronx.

MANA also said they are letting their members and various mosques be more secure.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League said they've sent letters urging synagogues to be cautious but not hysterical.

NYT : 4 Accused of Bombing Plot at Bronx Synagogues

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

4 Accused of Bombing Plot at Bronx Synagogues

By AL BAKER and JAVIER C. HERNANDEZ | May 20, 2009

Four men were arrested Wednesday night in what the authorities said was a plot to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes at an Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y.

The men, all of whom live in Newburgh, about 60 miles north of New York City, were arrested around 9 p.m. after planting what they believed to be bombs in cars outside the Riverdale Temple and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center, officials said. But the men did not know the bombs, obtained with the help of an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, were fake.

The arrests capped what officials described as a “painstaking investigation” that began in June 2008 involving an F.B.I. agent who had been told by a federal informant of the men’s desire to attack targets in America. As part of the plot, the men intended to fire Stinger missiles at military aircraft at the base, which is at Stewart International Airport, officials said.

“This latest attempt to attack our freedoms shows that the homeland security threats against New York City are sadly all too real and underscores why we must remain vigilant in our efforts to prevent terrorism,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said in a statement. The mayor was expected to appear at 6:45 a.m. Thursday at the Riverdale Jewish Center morning services, joined by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

The charges against the four men represent some of the most significant allegations of domestic terrorism in some time, and come months into a new presidential administration, as President Obama grapples with the question of how to handle detainees at the Guantánamo Bay camp in Cuba.

Rabbi Jonathan I. Rosenblatt, the senior rabbi at the Riverdale Jewish Center, a modern Orthodox congregation, said the police informed him on Wednesday evening that his synagogue was a target of the plot, as well as the Riverdale Temple, a Reform synagogue that is a short distance away, on Independence Avenue. The two buildings are about six blocks apart, each with a brick facade. Outside the synagogues on Wednesday night, the streets were eerily quiet.

Rabbi Rosenblatt said in a phone interview that he took the news with “shock, surprise — a sense of disbelief that something which is supposed to belong to the world of front pages and the evening news had invaded the quiet world of our synagogue.”

Jonathan Mark, associate editor of The Jewish Week newspaper who grew up in Riverdale, said it would have been the third plot in the past decade against the synagogues in Riverdale.

Law enforcement officials identified the four men arrested as James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all of Newburgh. One is of Haitian descent, according to law enforcement officials, and at least three were United States citizens. They are all Muslim, a law enforcement official said.

Mr. Cromitie had told the informant that he was upset about the war in Afghanistan and that that he wanted to “do something to America.” Mr. Cromitie stated “the best target” — the World Trade Center — “was hit already,” according to the complaint.

In April, Mr. Cromitie and the three other men selected the synagogues as their targets, the statement said. The informant soon helped them get the weapons, which were incapable of being fired or detonated, according to the authorities.

Mr. Kelly told Jewish leaders Wednesday evening that the attackers planned simultaneous attacks, and the men planned to leave the bombs in the cars in front of the two synagogues, drive back to Newburgh and retrieve cellphone-detonating devices and then proceed with the attack on the air base — simultaneously shooting down aircraft while remotely setting off the devices in the cars.

On Wednesday night, they planted one of the mock improvised explosive devices in a trunk of a car outside the temple and two mock bombs in the back seat of a car outside the Jewish center, the authorities said. Shortly thereafter, police officers swooped in and broke the windows on the suspects’ black sport utility vehicle and charged them with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States and conspiracy to acquire and use antiaircraft missiles.

Around 9 p.m., a law enforcement official said an 18-wheel New York police department vehicle blocked the suspects’ black sport utility vehicle at 239th Street and Independence Avenue. Another armored vehicle arrived and officers from the department’s Emergency Service Unit took the men out of the truck and handcuffed them.

After the plot was broken up, the team of uniformed officers took the suspects away.

Three of the four men were escorted by federal agents from Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan around 1 a.m. Thursday. They were handcuffed and did not respond to reporters’ questions as they were loaded into the back of vehicles to be taken to the nearby Metropolitan Correctional Center. There, they emerged one by one.

Mr. Cromitie, who was wearing a dark blue shirt and jeans, gazed at the assembled reporters and photographers but again did not respond to questions. David Williams and Onta Williams also did not answer questions as they quickly walked by, staring at the ground. The four defendants were to be taken to White Plains later on Thursday morning, where they were to appear in federal court.

A federal law enforcement official described the plot as “aspirational” — meaning that the suspects wanted to do something but had no weapons or explosives — and described the operation as a sting with a cooperator within the group.

“It was fully controlled at all times,” a law enforcement official said.

Stewart International Airport is used by the New York Air National Guard and United States Air Force, according to the complaint, and it stores aircraft used to transport military supplies and personnel to the military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Political leaders responded to the news of the arrests with statements expressing relief.

“This was a very serious threat that could have cost many, many lives if it had gone through,” Representative Peter T. King, Republican from Long Island, said in an interview with WPIX-TV. “It would have been a horrible, damaging tragedy. There’s a real threat from homegrown terrorists and also from jailhouse converts.”

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in a statement: “If there can be any good news from this terror scare it’s that this group was relatively unsophisticated, infiltrated early, and not connected to another terrorist group. This incident shows that we must always be vigilant against terrorism — foreign or domestic.”

Reporting was contributed by Sewell Chan, David Johnston, Angela Macropoulos, Jennifer Mascia, Colin Moynihan, William K. Rashbaum and Benjamin Weiser.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 22, 2009
An article in some editions on Thursday about the arrests of four men suspected in what the authorities said was a plot to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes at an Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y., included erroneous descriptions from a law enforcement official about the men’s ethnic origins. One is a Haitian immigrant and the other three are African-Americans; none are of Arabic descent.


This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 27, 2009

Because of an editing error, an article in some editions on Thursday about the arrests of four men suspected in what the authorities said was a plot to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes at an Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y., misstated, in some copies, the Bronx location where a police vehicle blocked the suspects’ sport utility vehicle. It was at 239th Street and Independence Avenue — not 237th Street and Riverdale Avenue, which do not intersect.

NY Daily News : Newburgh neighbors stunned as cops see enough hate to kill in terror fiends

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Newburgh neighbors stunned as cops see enough hate to kill in terror fiends

BY Carrie Melago, Alison Gendar, Joe Kemp and Matt Lysiak | DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS | May 22, 2009, 4:00

Three did prison time for drug dealing - and the fourth is a mentally ill Haitian immigrant found too insane to be deported.

Prosecutors described the men as bloodthirsty wanna-be terrorists who crossed the line from minor crime to big trouble when they were caught planting what they thought were explosives at two Bronx synagogues.

The awful details of the group's year-long plotting were captured by hidden cameras and microphones, prosecutors said.

James Cromitie, 44, David Williams, 28, and Onta Williams, 32, all served time for drug dealing, converting to Islam in prison. Cromitie had as many as 27 convictions.

He even made the stunning admission in court that he had smoked pot before the bust.

The fourth man, Laguerre Payen, 27, had served 15 months for assault and was supposed to be deported to Haiti. But an immigration judge stayed the order because Payen, a paranoid schizophrenic, was judged insane.

"Waiting for him to be sane enough to boot out of the country? That logic is what's insane," said a law enforcement source.

Payen lived in a filthy crack den where a friend Thursday said he saw bottles of urine.

The other three routinely hung out on Cromitie's porch in upstate Newburgh, across the street from David Williams' house, drinking and barbecuing.

They also routinely gathered at a Denny's restaurant, talking and eating dishes of rice and beans, said neighbors.

The assistant imam at the mainstream Masjid al-Ikhlas mosque in Newburgh, where the four worshiped sporadically, said they frequently had to be corrected in their understanding of the Koran.

One pal said Cromitie, the accused ringleader, brought up 9/11 just two weeks ago over beers on his creaky porch in a rundown section of Newburgh.

"James was disgusted by the death and carnage of 9/11. He said, 'Only an idiot believes peace can be achieved through violence,'" said neighbor Ricky Jewel.

"Now I look at that smile, and I don't know if he's grinning or plotting."

Prosecutors said Cromitie claimed his father was Afghan, but cops now believe it was a lie to boost his "terror creds."

Cromitie and his stepson, a seventh-grader, played baseball with the neighborhood kids hours before his arrest Wednesday. Cromitie also was known for helping elderly people in his housing development.

Cromitie, a high school dropout whose most recent arrest was for selling drugs near a New York City school, lived with his girlfriend, Kathleen Baynes, whom he met when she worked at a homeless shelter in upstate Chester.

Jewish Exponent : Synagogue Plot Underscores Threat From Independent Attackers

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Synagogue Plot Underscores Threat From Independent Attackers

Jewish Telegraphic Agency | May 28, 2009

WASHINGTON: The arrest of four men accused of plotting to attack two Bronx synagogues underscores the threat to Jewish targets by individuals or small groups, said several experts.

Whether it was the shooting at a Los Angeles Jewish community center 10 years ago to the attack on the Seattle Jewish federation building in 2006 to the targeting of Jews at Connecticut's Wesleyan University earlier this month, an individual or small group not formally connected to any major international terrorist group was at the center of the threat.

Police believe that the four suspects arrested last week -- James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen -- were working alone. They were taken into custody the night of May 20 shortly after planting fake explosives, which they believed to be real, in cars parked outside the Riverdale Temple, a Reform synagogue, and the Riverdale Jewish Center, an Orthodox synagogue. They also wanted to shoot down military planes at a nearby base, according to the authorities.

Reports that an FBI informant played a key role in encouraging and financing the plot have prompted questions about how serious a threat was. But several security experts who work with the Jewish community said that the case provides a clear road map for protecting against potential threats.

"All you need to know about terrorism you can learn from this case," said Steve Pomerantz, a former assistant director of the FBI and a former director of its counterterrorism unit.

Jews will always be at the top of the list of targets for terrorists, he said, and groups unaffiliated with a large international terrorist group are "at least as dangerous" as known groups such as Al Qaeda because they can "more easily slip through the intelligence net."

Paul Goldenberg, executive director of the Jewish-organized Secure Community Network, stressed "one common denominator" present in all past plots against Jews: hostile surveillance by the attackers.

"They were methodical ... and premeditated enough to plan and study the target," said Goldenberg, whose network was established 31/2 years ago by the United Jewish Communities and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to coordinate and advise on security procedures within the Jewish community.

For example, the criminal complaint for the New York plot states that last month, one of the defendants "photographed several synagogues and Jewish community centers in the Bronx and elsewhere for consideration as possible targets in a planned terrorist bombing campaign." The JCC was "easy as pie" to target, according to the complaint.

Employees at Jewish institutions need to be "extremely cognizant" of what's going on, said Goldenberg, because individuals could be watching the building, studying the patterns of who enters and when security patrols the surroundings.

While most institutions have video-camera surveillance, personnel must be trained to spot potential dangers, he added.

In Philadelphia, officials at local Jewish institutions said that they would continue with the same vigilance they had already adopted.

At the Jewish Community Services Building -- home to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and other Jewish groups -- Domenic Vallone, director of operations, said that many precautions had been implemented within the past 18 months at the recommendation of the Department of Homeland Security and the counterterrorism wing of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Vallone said that he had been in contact with local authorities about safety in the wake of the plot, and noted that homeland security has conducted rapid response reports on the building several times in the past and been "very satisfied."

He also noted that plans were under way for DHS to come into the Federation building later this summer for a community-wide training program for Jewish agencies and synagogues -- something that was in the works prior to the New York incident.

Barry Morrison, executive director of the local branch of the Anti-Defamation League, said that his group sent out an alert about the importance of being vigilant, but hadn't heard much from local constituents.

"If people were apprehensive, we'd be hearing from them," he said. "There's a sense that agencies -- Jewish defense agencies and law enforcement -- are doing their work."

Jewish Exponent staff writer Aaron Passman contributed to this report.

Poughkeepsie Journal : Man believed to be informant in terror plot also frequented Wappingers Falls mosque

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Man believed to be informant in terror plot also frequented Wappingers Falls mosque

John W. Barry | May 23, 2009

A man believed to be the government informant at the center of a Newburgh-based terrorism plot that unfolded last week had previously attended services at a mosque in Wappingers Falls, according to sources.

Imam Salahuddin Mustafa Muhammad of Masjid Al Ikhlas mosque in Newburgh said today that he believes a man named Shahid Maqsood, who attended services at the mosque, is the government informant.

Muhammad said he had previously learned, during routine dialogue with Masjid Al-Noor mosque in Wappingers Falls, that a man there had invited attention after asking more than once for a list of members.

“We suspect this person was a government agent,” Muhammad said.

Four men were arrested Wednesday and accused of plotting to blow up synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh.

The men — James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all of Newburgh — have pleaded not guilty.

Cromitie and Payen attended Masjid Al Ikhlas mosque occasionally.

Federal officials had been aware of the plot for almost a year and had an informant working with the crew, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday night. The FBI arranged for the alleged plotters to receive a non-functioning missile and bogus C-4 explosives, according to the complaint.

Muhammad said he grew suspicious of Maqsood because, “of things that came back to me from other people, who were saying he invited them to lunch, he invited them to dinner; he started having these conversations: what do you think about what’s going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Don’t you think we should deal with jihad?”

Zubair Zoha, chairman of the board of trustees at Masjid Al-Noor mosque in Wappingers Falls, said Maqsood had asked him three times for the mosque’s membership list, sometime between 2007-08, when Zoha was treasurer. Maqsood had told Zoha he wanted to start a business locally and was hoping to advertise his services to members of the mosque.

“I was suspicious,” Zoha said. “Nobody ever requested the membership list. I didn’t know what the purpose was. Why did he want the list? He couldn’t convince me.”

Workers World : FBI entraps four Black men in phony bomb plot

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

FBI entraps four Black men in phony bomb plot

By Larry Hales | May 27, 2009

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York state Gov. David A. Paterson and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly honored the FBI agents and New York Police Department personnel who foiled the phony FBI-engineered “terror plot.”

Each official took turns May 21 congratulating the federal and local cops, overblowing the circumstances surrounding the arrests of four Black men.

Bloomberg said of the arrests, “I feel safer in the city today than ever before,” and, “They have prevented what could have been a terrible loss of life.”

Paterson said it was “one of the most heinous crimes that has been [planned] in this city for a long time.”

Kelly called the response of the cops and FBI, “a textbook example of how a major investigation should be handled.” (New York Daily News, May 22)

This so-called plot ended when police arrested James Cromitie, 44; David Williams, 28; Onta Williams, 32; and Haitian immigrant Laguerre Payen, 27, as the four allegedly planted two bags supposedly filled with inert plastic explosives at two synagogues in the exclusive Riverdale neighborhood in the Bronx.

As with all the other so-called “homegrown terror plots,” this case is being revealed for what it really is: entrapment. It is one more incident of an FBI informant going fishing, baiting, in particular, Black men and enticing them with money and other favors, directing their conversations and playing upon their anger against their oppression.

This case has many similarities to a so-called plot involving the Miami 7. Five of the Miami defendants of the mostly Haitian group of seven were convicted a week earlier. It is also similar to the phony Fort Dix plot that led to five Muslim men being convicted earlier in May.

Informant promised to help dying brother

Elizabeth McWilliams, the mother of David Williams, said that the FBI informant, Shahed (Malik) Hussain, offered to help save David’s dying brother, who needs a liver transplant and is dying from an immunity disorder, sarcoidosis. McWilliams said, “He promised he would take care of it.” (Daily News, May 24)

James Cromitie’s friend, Kathleen Baynes, said the informant, also known as Maqsood, had given Cromitie rent money and cash. “They come and hit a brother who is down and out,” she said, “and tell him they’ll give him the world. Maqsood is no different than a pimp or drug dealer sitting on 42nd St.” (Daily News, May 24)

The government charged the four men with one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and another count of conspiracy to use an anti-aircraft missile. The four had all been released from prison in the recent past after having served time, mostly for drug convictions.

Cromitie worked at Wal-Mart and Onta Williams at loading and unloading trucks since being released. Another of the men worked at a landscaping company. Their neighbors describe them as nice guys. “There’s nothing bad to say about him,” one friend said, regarding Cromitie. (Los Angeles Times, May 22)

David Williams’ aunt, Aahkiyaah Cummings, said Williams is a good father.

Laguerre Payen had been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, for which he takes medication. Payen cannot read or write English. When asked if he understood what he was being charged with, he responded, “sort of.” Payen was also unemployed, had no money and was fighting a deportation order. (Daily News, May 24)

This government conspiracy involved the informant targeting the Masjid al-Ikhlas mosque in Newburgh, N.Y., starting a few years ago. According to worshippers there, Hussain focused “most of his attention on younger Black members and visitors.” (New York Times, May 23)

Informant’s deal with the FBI

Hussain, who had been an informant in a number of other federal cases, had moved to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1994. He was arrested in 2002 and charged with trying to help people in Albany get drivers’ licenses. Facing deportation, Hussain instead chose to assist the FBI in exchange for a light sentence of five years probation. (New York Times, May 23)

Worshippers said Hussain would approach young men, mostly Black men, and ask them out to lunch. He also asked the assistant to the imam at the mosque for a meeting.

Before attending services at the Masjid in Newburgh, Hussain went to another one in Wappingers Falls, not far from Newburgh. It was there that he asked an assistant to the imam for a list of worshippers. Most worshippers found Hussain suspicious and stayed clear of him.

Hussain stopped attending services at the Wappingers Fall mosque in June 2008, shortly before he met James Cromitie. It is reported that Cromitie told Hussain that his parents lived in Afghanistan for a time and that he was angry about the U.S. war there. This was around the time their relationship began.

A member of the mosque, Jamil Muhammad, said of Hussain, “It’s easy to influence someone with the dollar. Especially these guys coming out of prison.” (New York Times, May 23)

All of the men existed under dire circumstances forced upon them as oppressed Black men with a prison record before they began being mixed up with the government informant.

Hussain would sit outside the Newburgh mosque in his black Mercedes. He may have appeared as a way for the men to escape their circumstances, a way for David Williams to get his brother the liver transplant, a way for the others to get their heads above water in times of a crisis of the system.

As in the case of the Miami men, the informant did much of the talking. Hussain posed as having contacts with a Pakistani group, Jaish-e-Mohammed (Mohammed’s Army). He had the contacts to get the disabled anti-aircraft weapon and the inert explosives. Hussain even took the four men to get cell phones.

Since the men primarily worked at low paying jobs, transcripts of the investigation will most likely reveal that Hussain bankrolled the entire operation.

That Cromitie expressed anger towards the United States for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is no great crime. The majority of people in the U.S. and around the world oppose the U.S. occupations of those countries.

A New York Times article quoted above even reveals that the imam of the Newburgh mosque questions whether a plot would have developed if Hussain had not been around.

It is evident and will prove even more so over time that if he had not been entrapped, James Cromitie would have most likely gone about his life. So would the other three. But the FBI and the informant preyed upon their anger.

Ultimately, though, it is not their anger that is at fault, but the conditions of U.S. society. Here oppressed people seek and, in particular, these four Black men sought, whatever means might improve their daily existence. Then they are criminalized for it.

This crisis of the system falls upon them harder than on most people. If this is indeed “how every major investigation should be handled,” as Police Commissioner Kelly said, then more such cases of entrapment can be expected. Their righteous indignation towards capitalism and imperialism can itself turn them into pariahs.

Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

The Militant : N.Y.: Four entrapped by FBI, arrested on conspiracy charges

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

N.Y.: Four entrapped by FBI, arrested on conspiracy charges

BY CINDY JAQUITH | June 8, 2009

NEW YORK—In a case based on FBI entrapment, four men were arrested here May 20 on charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy to acquire and use an antiaircraft missile. They are being held without bail.

Three U.S.-born Black workers—James Cromitie, David Williams, and Onta Williams—and one Haitian, Laguerre Payen, were arrested after they allegedly joined FBI provocateur Shahed Hussain in placing what they thought were active bombs outside the Riverdale Jewish Center and the Reform Riverdale Temple in the Bronx.

Earlier, the government says, the four had traveled to Connecticut with Hussain to pick up what they were told was a Stinger missile, supposedly for use against aircraft at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, from which U.S. troops and supplies are regularly flown to Iraq and Afghanistan. All four defendants lived in Newburgh.

New York State representative Peter King claimed, “This was a very serious threat that could have cost many, many lives if it had gone through. There’s a real threat from homegrown terrorists and also from jailhouse converts.” All four men had served time in prison and are Muslims.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg praised the arrests. Police commissioner Raymond Kelly said the police-FBI operation was “a textbook example of how a major investigation should be handled.”

According to the indictment, Cromitie and the other three were bent on attacking Jews and symbols of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. A large part of the “evidence,” however, is based on taped conversations in a house especially outfitted for surveillance by the FBI, weapons supplied by the FBI, and the word of FBI spy Hussain.

According to the London Times, Hussain became an FBI informant in 2002 to avoid deportation for fraud charges. This is not his first “terrorist” case. Attorney Terence Kindlon said a client of his was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2004 on charges of laundering money for a “terrorist plot.” The star witness in that trial was also Hussain.

In the case of the four just arrested in New York, “A federal law enforcement official described the plot as ‘aspirational’—meaning that the suspects wanted to do something but had no weapons or explosives,” reported the New York Times. “It was fully controlled at all times,” a federal cop told the Times.

According to the indictment, FBI spy Hussain told the four defendants that he belonged to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based armed Islamist group. Cromitie, the government claims, asked to join Jaish and said he wanted to “get a synagogue.” Onta Williams is accused of calling for killing U.S. soldiers with bombs and Stingers.

Salahuddin Muhammad, the imam at the mosque in Newburgh, said people were suspicious of Hussain when he first began visiting there: “He came to the mosque and started right away trying to meet up with different people.” One man told Muhammad that Hussain had offered him $25,000 “and he started talking about jihad.” The man said he told Hussain, “I don’t want no part of that.”

Muhammad pointed out that “provocateur” is a better word for Hussain than “informant,” according to the Newburgh News.

Lord McWilliams, brother of defendant David Williams, told the New York Daily News that Hussain led the family to believe that he would pay $20,000 for a liver transplant for Lord that his Medicaid insurance would not cover.

“We’re not entrapping or encouraging anyone to commit a crime,” claimed Joseph Demarest, head of the New York FBI office. “We merely facilitated their wishes.”

“You have to be skeptical,” said Utya Habif-Afres, interviewed by the Washington Post as she picked up her son from a class at the Riverdale Jewish Center. “I was also questioning if the police informant didn’t provide the bombs, would these people have been able to get bombs?”

The National (UAE) : Islamic group says four alleged US plotters ‘not real Muslims’

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Islamic group says four alleged US plotters ‘not real Muslims’

Sharmila Devi, Foreign Correspondent | May 30, 2009

NEW YORK // The recent arrest of four New York men for allegedly plotting to attack Jewish centres raised fears among American Muslims the incident would reinforce extremist views of them as an ever-present danger in US society.

The vast majority of American Muslims did not even consider the four men as real religious brothers, said Naim Baig, vice-president of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), a community group started in 1974.

“We say there is no place for any terrorism in Islam, period. Some people abuse the faith out of their own tribal agendas. These four guys were not even practising Muslims. They had criminal backgrounds and some had girlfriends,” Mr Baig said.

This view of the plotters as outside mainstream Muslim society helps to explain why the alleged bomb plots were usurped by the financial crisis and its moral implications as the most discussed topic at last weekend’s three-day ICNA conference, attended by up to 12,000 people in Hartford, Connecticut.

Muslim community leaders have tried to distance themselves even more from the plotters in recent days, with many issuing statements of concern over the use of an informant by US law enforcement agencies to catch the men, who aimed to bomb two New York synagogues and shoot down military planes in Newburgh, about 110 kilometres north of the city.

The alleged plot “may have been based more on the financial inducements of a government informant than on the predisposition to terrorism of three petty criminals and a mentally ill Haitian immigrant,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair), a civil rights group, said in a statement. “The Associated Press described the alleged plotters as ‘down-and-out ex-convicts living on the margins in a faded industrial city’.”

Earlier this year, several Muslim groups called for a suspension of outreach co-operation with the FBI because of concerns over the use of informants at mosques, particularly in California and Florida.

Islam is the fastest-growing religion in US prisons, with between 30,000 and 40,000 conversions each year, according to a study for the justice department by Indiana State University criminologists.

“Prislam” is how such conversions are described by law enforcement officials, who closely monitor prison imams. Corrections officials in New York and Connecticut have also banned a Saudi translation of the Quran that has an appendix called “The Call to Jihad (Holy Fighting in Allah’s Cause)”.

Less easy to check is the informal teaching administered to prisoners by fellow inmates and who might have a less than scholarly understanding of Islam.

The alleged plot also highlights tensions between Muslims of Arab or South Asian origin and African-American Muslims, such as the four alleged plotters. They are James Cromitie, also known as Abdul Rahman, David Williams, also called Daoud, Onta Williams, also called Hamza, and Lageurre Payen, also called Amin or Almondo, who was born in Haiti.

Tough drug laws since the 1980s led to the incarceration of large numbers of African-Americans, many of whom joined the Nation of Islam, a US-born religious group much criticised for its extremist views, before progressing towards more mainstream Sunni Islam.

Mr Baig, who is of Pakistani descent, said relations were improving between African-Americans and their co-religionists from South Asia and the Middle East.

“The relationship is still in a learning process and there are many cultural gaps. For example, many of our African-American brothers can’t handle the spices in our food. We also fell into racial profiling where we labelled different groups in a certain way,” he said.

Reuters : Informant's role questioned in U.S. security probes

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Informant's role questioned in U.S. security probes

By Edith Honan | May 31, 2009

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The arrests of four men in a suspected plot to bomb two New York synagogues have drawn fire from critics who say U.S. law enforcement relies on informants who infiltrate extremist groups that otherwise would be incapable of mounting an attack.

Civil liberties advocates and legal scholars say the case is part of a pattern since the September 11 attacks of 2001 in which paid informants are sent to mosques where they aid and encourage disgruntled Muslim men in criminal pursuits.

"We're concerned that it was the actions of the FBI informant that really led to the alleged plot," said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Police on May 20 arrested four men who they said worked with an undercover informant for a year and were caught on video leaving what they believed were live bombs outside a pair of synagogues in the Bronx borough of New York.

The men then planned to shoot down military aircraft with a guided surface-to-air missile that, like the explosives, was deactivated and provided by the informant, authorities said.

The suspects -- James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen -- are charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and face up to life in prison if convicted. None is believed to have links to al Qaeda.

"Why the FBI is going out to create a terrorist group just so they can then solve the crime by prosecuting the terrorist group seems a little odd," said Michael German, who spent 16 years as an FBI special agent and now works with the American Civil Liberties Union.

He cited the fact that the men in the Bronx case had difficulty buying a pistol as evidence they needed help to do real harm.

FBI spokesman Jim Margolin said it was bureau policy not to comment on pending or previous cases and he would not comment on the use of informants generally.

"They still had the intention," Joseph Demarest, head of the New York FBI office, said of the suspects at a recent news conference.

Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing plot, said informants were closely monitored and essential to preventing attacks.

"If the counterterrorism strategy you want is to prevent attacks from happening, you don't have any choice but to infiltrate potential terrorist organizations," McCarthy said. "Your average FBI agent from Iowa is not going to be able to ... credibly infiltrate terrorist organizations."


Recent plots targeting New Jersey's Fort Dix military base, the New York subway system and Chicago's Sears Tower have been foiled at early stages with the help of informants and have led to criminal convictions.

In 2006, a 23-year-old Pakistani immigrant, Matin Siraj, was convicted of plotting to blow up a New York subway station after meeting with an informant nearly twice his age who was recruited by police to monitor extremist Muslims at mosques.

Siraj testified the informant had inflamed his anger toward the United States.

Another informant used in multiple cases, Mohamed Alanssi, set himself on fire outside the White House in November 2004 to protest his treatment by the FBI.

German said the public should be concerned about entrapment even if, as a defense, it typically fails to sway juries.

"It really strains credulity why the FBI chose not to use undercover agents (instead of informants), and my concern is the reason why is because they know the informants will bend the rules a lot more easily," German said.

In the Bronx case, Payen's court-appointed lawyer said her client was "intellectually challenged" and schizophrenic.

"They look like hapless mopes who, but for the government, wouldn't have been involved in anything, let alone a sophisticated plot," said Columbia University Law School professor Daniel Richman.

"The problem the government faces is the concern that a group of hapless mopes, when visited by the foreign terrorist type, will turn into very willing and effective tools."

(Additional reporting by Christine Kearney; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Peter Cooney)

© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

Boston Globe : Ex-convicts hatched plan to bomb synagogues

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Ex-convicts hatched plan to bomb synagogues

Officials detail terror plot; suspects held without bail

By Michael Wilson | New York Times | May 22, 2009

NEW YORK - They were four ex-convicts - one a crack addict, another whose most recent arrests involved snatching women's purses -and they gathered their terror tools as they went.

They bought cellphones, the authorities said; they bought a camera in a Wal-Mart to take photographs of the synagogues in New York City that they wanted to blow up. When their attempts to buy guns in Newburgh, N.Y., fell through - their gun dealer told them she had sold out - they drove downstate, buying a $700 pistol from a Bloods gang leader in Brooklyn.

After months of planning, the authorities allege, the men had their first real scare this month, driving to Connecticut to pick up a surface-to-air missile that was waiting for them in a warehouse.

One of the men in the car - on parole for a drug conviction - was sure they were being followed by law enforcement, so they turned around, lost their suspected tail, and eventually went back to Stamford for their missile and bombs.

They brought them back to Newburgh, locked them in a storage container, and celebrated, shouting, "Allah Akbar!"

These details as told by the authorities describe a homegrown terror plot to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down a military aircraft in Newburgh. The outlines of the plan were more fully filled in yesterday, in court hearings, documents and interviews, as were bits and pieces of the checkered life stories of the four men charged in the plot.

Remarkably, vast passages of the conspiracy federal authorities described - the talk of killing Jews, the testing of the men's would-be weaponry - played out on a veritable sound stage of hidden cameras and secret microphones, and involved material provided by the FBI. A house in Newburgh, a storage facility in Stamford, the planting of the would-be bombs in the Riverdale section of the Bronx - everything was recorded, according to the complaint.

"It's hard to envision a more chilling plot." Eric Snyder, an assistant US attorney, said yesterday in federal court in Manhattan."These are extremely violent men. These are men who eagerly embraced an opportunity to bring deaths to Jews."

The investigation began with the work of a confidential informant, who portrayed himself as an agent of a Pakistani terror organization, and who became a critical member of the men's plot. The full nature and extent of the informant's role in facilitating the plot is unknown.

In other cases, defense lawyers have sought to portray these informants as engaging in entrapment, suggesting they had,in effect, provoked and fueled the actions of their clients.

But where past terror prosecutions have been based mostly on conversations about a planned or imagined attack, this one went further, the authorities alleged: The men went through critical acts in what they believed to be a deadly assault.

As for the defendants - James Cromitie, 45; David Williams, 28; Onta Williams, 32, and no apparent relation to David; and Laguerre Payen, 27 - most of the details that emerged yesterday stemmed from their criminal pasts.

David Williams was described as particularly violent by prosecutors yesterday. When the plan to buy guns from a woman in Newburgh fell through, it was David Williams who quickly improvised, arranging to buy a gun from a man he described as a "supreme Blood gang leader" in Brooklyn, said Snyder. After buying the gun in the company of the informant, David Williams said he would have shot the gang leader if he were alone with him, and kept his $700.

Payen, described as a nervous, quiet sort who took medication for schizophrenia or a bipolar disorder, was unemployed and living in squalor in Newburgh. His last arrest, in 2002, was for assault, after he drove around the Rockland County village of Monsey firing a BB-gun out the window - striking two teens - and snatching two women's purses.

Onta Williams had been hooked on cocaine since he was a teenager, according to testimony at a 2003 court hearing.

Cromitie has spent 12 years in prison, most recently for selling drugs to undercover officers behind a school.

Law enforcement officials initially said the four men were Muslims, but yesterday their religious backgrounds remained uncertain.

Payen reported himself to be Catholic during his 15-month prison sentence that ended in 2005, according to a state corrections official. Cromitie and Onta Williams both identified themselves as Baptists in prison records, although Cromitie changed his listed religion to Muslim upon his last two incarcerations; David Williams reported no religious affiliation.

The men never served in the same prison together. Three of them regularly lunched together at Danny's Restaurant in Newburgh, chatting over plates of rice and beans, said Danny DeLeon, the owner.

© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.

Times Herald-Record : Temple bomb case hurtful reminder in NYC community

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Temple bomb case hurtful reminder in NYC community

May 25, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) -- Riverdale has a reputation as a tranquil piece of suburbia nestled in New York City.

The hilly Bronx neighborhood boasts leafy estates, prestigious schools and sweeping views of the Hudson River. Residents tout the neighborliness of a place that feels both close to urbane charms and far from urban ills.

Yet the arrests last week of four men accused of trying to bomb two Riverdale synagogues weren't the community's first confrontation with the specter of violent hatred. A local weekly newspaper was firebombed in 1989, in apparent retaliation for an editorial. And a group of men including a Palestinian angry at Israel tossed homemade bombs through a temple's door in 2000.

The newest case evokes both painful memories and new anguish for the heavily Jewish community, which prides itself on tolerance and embracing diversity. One of the temples authorities say was targeted, the Riverdale Jewish Center, has provided a Muslim exchange student with space to pray near her school.

"Riverdale terrorist plot - three words I never thought I would say in one sentence," mused resident Aliza Hausman, 28, a Dominican-American who converted from Roman Catholicism to Orthodox Judaism. She moved to Riverdale in 2006, seeing it as "definitely a tolerant type of place."

Despite her conversion, one of the community's two Catholic colleges readily hired her for a part-time job, said Hausman, a former editor and public school teacher who keeps a blog called "Memoirs of a Jewminicana."

A scenic swath of land along the Hudson, Riverdale has been a home or summer home to Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, the conductor Arturo Toscanini and Carly Simon, among other notables.

Wealthy New Yorkers began creating estates there in the mid-1800s. Smaller homes, high-rises and a subway line have since made parts of the area more urban. But preservationists have reined in development pressures to protect single-family homes and the community's sense of being a place apart in the often gritty Bronx.

"Riverdale is a community that has its own, somewhat separate identity," said lifelong resident and City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell, a former state attorney general and assemblyman.

Long a Jewish and Irish-American redoubt, Riverdale has seen an influx of Dominican-Americans in recent years, along with Manhattanites of all demographics attracted by its family-oriented feel and relative affordability.

Growing, too, is the population of Orthodox Jews, drawn by a rising number of Orthodox synagogues and schools.

Orthodox newcomers are a small fraction of the 101,000 people in Riverdale and two adjacent neighborhoods counted with it in city community statistics.

But with the growing Orthodox community, "the image of Riverdale is much more Jewish," said Richard Stein, co-publisher emeritus of The Riverdale Press, one of the area's weekly newspapers. His parents founded it in 1950; it is now owned by Richner Communications Inc.

The first floor of the paper's office was destroyed in the February 1989 firebombing. It came days after Stein's brother, Bernard, wrote an editorial saying citizens had a right to read Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses." The book prompted Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a death decree that forced the author into hiding for years.

The paper published the day after the bombing, with a front-page editorial declaring, "We will not be silenced."

The paper continues to run an editorial about Rushdie once a year. One version helped win Bernard Stein the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing, a rare honor for a small newspaper.

In 2000, authorities said four men tried to make Molotov cocktails out of vodka bottles and lobbed them through the glass door of the Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale the night before Yom Kippur, the Jewish calendar's holiest day. The firebombs didn't ignite.

Two men were convicted. The lawyer for one of the men, a Palestinian, told a court that her client was trying to stop the congregation from sending money to Israel.

Authorities say the recent temple bombing plot was more advanced.

The defendants, Muslims angry at the United States and Jews, had gotten what they thought was a powerful explosive, a court complaint said. The explosive was inert, and their supplier was part of an FBI sting, according to the complaint.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the men may have chosen their temple targets simply for their convenience. One is near a highway, the other a few blocks away.

"In other words, it could have been any synagogue, any temple here in Riverdale or elsewhere," Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale wrote in a speech for Saturday services. The Orthodox synagogue was not among the alleged conspirators' targets.

"We dare not forget that an attack against any house of worship," he wrote, "is an attack against every house of worship."

Times Herald-Record : Terror informant misused?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Terror informant misused?

Lawyers question whether FBI's plant went too far

By Matt King | May 24, 2009

The use of confidential informants to bust alleged homegrown terror rings is part of a campaign intended more to promote the war on terror than to protect citizens, say lawyers who have defended the accused in such cases.

"This is the law enforcement equivalent of an exhibition game," Albany lawyer Terence Kindlon said. "They're creating a crime and then solving it."

Kindlon represented Yassin Aref, an imam sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2007 in a scheme to launder money for an informant who claimed he was part of a plot to assassinate a Pakistini government official in New York.

The informant — Aref knew him as Malik — is named Shahed Hussain, who has worked for federal agents since 2003, when he was convicted in a fraud scheme involving motor vehicle documents in Albany, according to court records.

Based on the criminal complaint against James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, Kindlon says the informant in the Albany case is the same one involved in the case of the four Newburgh men.

"These were four very vulnerable dimwits who were susceptible to a very sophisticated, extremely devious, extraordinarily clever and dishonest snake in the grass," he said. "So crooked is this Malik character I don't trust him as far as I can throw my car."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York would not comment on the informant's identity. A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington also would not comment on the case but said informants follow "strict guidelines" to avoid entrapping suspects.

"We stay well away from that line and make sure every action is legal," Dean Boyd said.

Arnold Bogis, a research fellow at the Belfer Center at Harvard University, said informants are justified as long as their role is not simply to foment the "musings of angry, disaffected people."

An imam at a Newburgh mosque has accused the confidential informant of "prompting, prompting, prompting" the four alleged plotters into the attacks with his talk of jihad and fighting.

Lawyers concede actions by the FBI don't meet the legal burden of entrapment, but say they blur ethical lines by overtly encouraging their targets to participate in plots hatched by the informants.

"As soon as you introduce an aggressive informant into the situation you don't have the ability to understand what the defendants' intent was going to be," said New Jersey lawyer Michael Huff, who defended one of five men sentenced in April for plotting to attack Fort Dix.

"When you find people who feel disenfranchised and looking to blame their problems on someone, they're easily led."

The Newburgh men are uneducated, with sad-sack histories of drug abuse, mental illness and incarceration.

"You take these sacrificial lambs, they can't find Afghanistan on a map. They probably can't find Newburgh on a map," Kindlon said. "These are pathetic people from the underclass, the law enforcement equivalent of cannon fodder."

Huff said the informant approach would be fine if infiltrators merely observed and didn't take leadership roles in plots.

But he doesn't expect the policy to change because "the investigation would then go on forever. All they want to know is what they need to convict these guys at trial."

And the approach has worked.

Earlier this month, five men were convicted in Miami for plotting to blow up the Sears Tower. The government pressed the case through two hung juries before finally winning.

Times Herald-Record : City, state honor team that derailed alleged terror plot

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

City, state honor team that derailed alleged terror plot

NYC mayor gives awards to more than 100

By The Associated Press | May 23, 2009

NEW YORK — Law enforcement agents who helped thwart a suspected New York City terror plot have received special thanks from the city and state.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday awarded certificates to more than 100 detectives, officers and agents from the FBI, NYPD and state police.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly says the amount of people involved shows the scope of the investigation.

Four men were arrested Wednesday and accused of plotting to blow up synagogues and shoot down military planes at the Air National Guard Base in Newburgh.

They have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles.

Officials say the FBI monitored the plot every step of the way.

Times Herald-Record : Suspected terrorists stopped for a bite

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Suspected terrorists stopped for a bite

FBI prepared to make arrests in Newburgh

By Adam Bosch | May 23, 2009

NEWBURGH — Federal agents were going to spring their trap in Newburgh, but four aspiring jihadists didn't want to commit terrorism on an empty stomach.

The four accused conspirators — James Cromitie, 44; Laguerre Payen, 27; David Williams, 28; and Onta Williams, 32 — didn't rush their plot Wednesday to blow up two Bronx synagogues and military aircraft at the Air National Guard base in Newburgh, according to an investigator familiar with the case.

Instead, the men ate an early afternoon meal at one of their Newburgh apartments, spent some time praying and then paused to eat again at the Thruway's Ramapo rest stop.

Only then did they head to the Bronx to plant what they believed to be explosives outside two synagogues, where they were arrested about 9:30 p.m.

The FBI initially wanted to sting the men in Newburgh. Agents planned to let the accused terror team set up somewhere near the Air National Guard Base at Stewart International Airport before moving in to arrest them.

The men planned to use a Stinger ground-to-air missile to blow a military aircraft out of the sky, according to court records. It's unclear whether the suspects' delay forced authorities to change their plans.

"They wanted to arrest the men when they got back up here (to Newburgh)," the investigator said. "We were set up much earlier, and they got the suspects six hours later than expected."

The investigator, who spoke anonymously because he's not authorized to talk to the press, said the conspirators' lack of urgency was another sign of their ineptitude.

They plotted an elaborate scheme but lacked the precision to carry it out on schedule.

In other terror-plot revelations, the Times Herald-Record has learned that:

# The four men were talking openly in a Newburgh mosque about their desire to commit jihad when a federal informant, a sporadic attendee of the mosque, overheard them. He then took the information to the feds.

The informant, Sahed "Malik" Hussain, helped the FBI infiltrate accused terrorists operating at a storefront mosque in Albany in 2004.

Hussain was recruited by the feds after pleading guilty in April 2003 to scheming to help illegal immigrants get driver's licenses.

The investigator said the government would now likely pay and relocate Hussain.

# Federal agents this week searched a Beacon apartment where Onta Williams listed an address. It's unclear what agents recovered.

# Four Newburgh men conjured the plot, but the FBI provided the money. Agents gave Hussain money to help the would-be terrorists buy what they believed to be explosives and missile systems.

The FBI also provided two cars that the terror suspects parked outside the Bronx synagogues days before the plan was to be executed. The men stashed inert explosive devices inside the cars' trunks just before federal agents arrested them.

# It's unclear whether the four men had been monitoring the Air National Guard Base to track when military planes landed and took off, but sources said C-5A traffic was heavy on Wednesday, the planned day of the attack.

Eric Durr, spokesman for the Division of Military and Naval Affairs, said military air traffic at Stewart was normal but would not say how many planes came and left.

# One of the suspects, Payen, was ordered to be deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but the agency could not move him because of unspecified circumstances.

"Based upon the ruling of the immigration judge, we are unable to remove Mr. Payen," ICE spokesman Louis Martinez said. "He has been on an order of supervision and reports to ICE regularly."

Martinez did not say how often Payen checked in.

Reporters Chris McKenna and Michael Randall contributed to this story.

Times Herald-Record : Sorry, honey: I was busy stopping a terrorist plot

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Sorry, honey: I was busy stopping a terrorist plot

May 22, 2009

New Windsor police got a call May 8 from an employee of the Guardian Storage business on Route 32. The employee was suspicious of a man who had a Middle Eastern appearance and made 45 visits over three days to the storage units he was renting. He took pains to conceal what he was storing.

Police made some inquiries, New Windsor police Chief Michael Biasotti said. "Of course, we set off all kinds of alarms, because it's an FBI operation. At that point, we're brought into it." Biasotti took his place in the command post set up at Stewart Airport.

The moral of the story, Biasotti said, is that "The 'If you see something, say something' campaign works.'"

Biasotti can now explain to his stepdaughter, Elizabeth Hanley, why he was unable to attend her graduation from a doctoral program at Columbia Wednesday.

"I had to miss that," he said with a rueful chuckle, "and I couldn't even give a reason about why I couldn't be there."

Oliver Mackson


Not the expected answer

U.S. Magistrate Lisa Margaret Smith was dealing with the arraignments of the accused terror plotters Thursday.

In what is a pro forma question in such court appearances, Smith asked if any of the defendants had taken drugs in the past 24 hours.

James Cromitie volunteered that he had smoked marijuana on Wednesday.

John Sullivan


Town police were involved, also

The FBI briefed Town of Newburgh police last week on the year-long investigation, according to Deputy Chief John Mahoney.

The department also had a member stationed in the local command post Wednesday while arrests were being made, but only to monitor the situation.

"Our concern was for the safety of the residents of the town," Mahoney said.

The Stewart Air National Guard base is primarily on the Town of Newburgh side of the airport, off Route 17K.

State police Capt. Wayne Olson at Troop F headquarters in Middletown confirmed the troop was involved in the investigation but would not say in what capacity, nor would he make any more specific comments.

He referred questions to the FBI.

Mike Randall

Times Herald-Record : Informant's story never questioned

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Informant's story never questioned

By Jeremiah Horrigan | May 22, 2009

CITY OF NEWBURGH — The terrorist suspects arrested Wednesday in Newburgh didn't do their homework very well.

The unidentified informant who supplied the men with phony bomb and missile equipment claimed to be a member of a Pakistan jihadist group, but his credentials were apparently never questioned.

Jaish-e-Mohammad ("Army of Mohammed"), or JEM, which is based in Pakistan, has been implicated in the attacks on Mumbai, India, last year. The U.S. government has designated the group as a foreign terrorist organization.

According to FBI documents, James Cromitie, one the four accused men, told the informant he would be "interested" in joining Jaish-e-Mohammed to "do jihad."

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said if there can be any good news out of this case, it's that "the group was relatively unsophisticated, penetrated early and not connected to any outside group."

LoHud : Mosque officials discuss terror suspects, suggest entrapment

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Mosque officials discuss terror suspects, suggest entrapment

By Hema Easley | May 21, 2009

NEWBURGH, N.Y. - Leaders of a Newburgh mosque said two men suspected of plotting to bomb Jewish temples in Riverdale and shoot down military planes were loosely affiliated with the mosque, and one was on medication for paranoia.

The head imam of the mosque says one of the men arrested was baited into the plot, and he called the arrest entrapment.

Federal agents arrested Newburgh residents James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, and charged them with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Hamin Rashada is the assistant imam at Masjid Al-Ikhlas, where Cromitie and Payen frequented. The name of the mosque translates to "Mosque of Purity and Serenity."

Rashada said Payen suffered from paranoia, was on medication, and had been to the mosque for counseling recently. He was also in the country illegally from Haiti and had faced deportation in the past but was helped by a group of students from a local law college, and apparently hadn't been deported.

He was in jail for five months for something related to his immigration status, Rashada said. Payen was scheduled for another immigration hearing tomorrow at Federal Plaza in New York City, but he's in FBI custody, he said.

Rashada said that when Payen came to the mosque in March, he was apparently homeless, and Rashada assisted him in getting a room in a multi-family home that was also home to several people with criminal backgrounds who were on parole.

He said that in the last few days, Payen had been going around asking people where he could gain access to heavy weapons and a dependable driver. According to Rashada, the people did not help him because they didn't want more legal trouble.

He found all this out when he asked around today and yesterday after hearing of the arrests, he said. He informed the FBI of the information he had gathered last night. He knew none of the information prior to the arrests.

NYT : The Role of an F.B.I. Informer Draws Praise as Well as Questions About Legitimacy

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Role of an F.B.I. Informer Draws Praise as Well as Questions About Legitimacy


It was August 2006 when one of the young Muslim men accused of plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix first broached the idea, according to the authorities. Talking to an informer who was secretly taping the exchange, the young man said that he thought he could round up six or seven other men willing to take part, and that a rocket-propelled grenade might be the most effective weapon, the authorities said.

And he had one more notion: He wanted the informer to lead the attack, according to a federal complaint. “I am at your services,” the young man is quoted as telling the informer, who had presented himself as an Egyptian with a military background.

That moment, recorded on tape and submitted in federal court this week in Camden, N.J., as the authorities charged six Muslim men in the plot, captures something of the complexity of using informers in terror investigations. The informer, sent to penetrate a loose group of men who liked to talk about jihad and fire guns in the woods, had come to be seen by the suspects as the person who might actually show them how an act of terror could be carried off.

Indeed, over the months that followed, as the targets of the investigation spoke with a sometimes unfocused zeal about waging holy war, the informer, one of two used in the investigation, would tell them that he could get them the sophisticated weapons they wanted. He would accompany them on surveillance missions to military installations, debating the risks, and when the men looked ready to purchase the weapons, it was the informer who seemed to be pushing the idea of buying the deadliest items, startling at least one of the suspects.

Since 9/11, law enforcement officials have praised the work of such informers, saying they have been doing exactly what they should be doing — gaining access to the world of a possible threat, playing along to see just how far suspects were willing to go, and allowing the authorities to act before the potential terrorists did.

In the case of the men arrested this week, the authorities have been emphatic: The men were prepared to kill, and to die in the effort, and the informer was vital to preventing any loss of life.

“Their intentions and motivation were obviously well established before the investigation began,” said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the United States attorney in New Jersey, Christopher J. Christie, who announced the arrests of the men on Tuesday.

The authorities made the arrests and ended the operation, officials said, because the men were at last ready to acquire the weapons they had sought.

As the case goes forward, the role of the main informer will almost surely be contested. Over the years, informers in terror cases have become the focus of efforts by defense lawyers and others to call into question the legitimacy of the investigations. They have often sought to show that informers engaged in entrapment.

“The police are allowed to use some enticement in cases,” said Troy Archie, a lawyer for one of the six men charged, Dritan Duka. “But it depends how far they go.”

Certainly, the work of informers can sometimes seem murky. In one instance, the informer who was the main witness in a major terror financing case in Brooklyn in 2005 almost did not make it to the witness stand after he set himself on fire in front of the White House to protest his compensation by his F.B.I. handlers. The informer helped win a conviction, but wound up being prosecuted himself for writing bad checks while working for the F.B.I.

In the criminal complaint they filed against the six men in New Jersey, federal prosecutors took the step of including information about an earlier problem involving their main informer. Prosecutors acknowledged that the informer, two months before he became involved in the Fort Dix case, had misled investigators in order to protect a friend.

The prosecutors added that “the F.B.I. has been able to independently corroborate the information provided” by the informer in this case through recordings and surveillance tapes.

The complaint captures only a small portion of the interactions between the informer and the six suspects during the 14 months they were associated. Defense lawyers assigned yesterday to represent two of the central figures in the case objected to what they called the selective excerpts of conversations submitted by the prosecutors.

“The prosecutors have put out only snippets of conversations, rather than the entire context of conversations,” said Rocco C. Cipparone, who represents another of the six, Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer.

However, a close reading of even the limited material in the criminal complaint suggests a relationship in which some of the suspects never fully trusted the informer, but nonetheless shared secrets with him about a wide assortment of illicit plans and illegal weapons.

Without doubt, in most of the instances described in the complaint, the informer seems to be merely facilitating the menacing plans of the suspects or following along. But on some occasions, the informer appears to have played a slightly more provocative role.

He first struck up an acquaintance with Mr. Shnewer, a cabdriver, in March 2006, two months after a store clerk alerted the authorities that a man had asked him to make a DVD copy of a videotape that appeared to be a terrorist training exercise.

The complaint suggests that the informer quickly began to establish a rapport with Mr. Shnewer, apparently one of the group’s leaders. The informer was shown terror training videotapes, included in talks about obtaining weapons and invited to be the group’s tactical leader in any assault. He later went with Mr. Shnewer on trips to scout a variety of military targets.

Months elapsed without significant developments. The complaint indicates that in October 2006, seven months after the informer first entered the ranks of the men, it might have been the informer who helped jump-start another suspect, Serdar Tatar, who still had not followed through on his promise to get a map of the base from his father’s pizzeria near Fort Dix. The two men were discussing Fort Dix, the complaint said, when the informer “expressed anger at the United States.”

“You want to make them pay for something that they did,” Mr. Tatar said to the informer, according to the complaint. “O.K., you need maps?”

Soon, Mr. Tatar provided the map, the complaint says.

In November, it was the informer who volunteered that he might have a source who could provide the machine guns and heavier arms the men had long been talking about.

“Shnewer expressed interest,” the complaint says.

By early this year, the complaint asserts, the informer accompanied the men to a shooting range in the Poconos, and later practiced assault maneuvers with them using paintball guns. During those exercises, the suspects mused about obtaining explosives and whether to attack a warship when it was docked in Philadelphia.

Eljvir Duka, one of three brothers among the suspects, offered a rationale for their planned attacks, saying, according to the complaint, that when someone threatened “your religion, your way of life, then you go jihad.”

But no specific dates were discussed or plans committed to.

And when efforts to finally get the more potent weapons seemed close to producing results, the informer presented a list of possible arms that could now be bought. The list included fully automatic machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. But it was the men who scaled back their ambitions.

In fact, one of the suspects, Dritan Duka, seemed taken aback by the informer’s listing of the heavy artillery. Mr. Duka appeared to ask the informer if there was anything more he should know about the informer’s background or intentions, including whether he was religious. Asked why he seemed alarmed, Mr. Duka said to the informer, “There was some stuff on the list that was heavy.” And he added an expletive.

In the last recorded conversation cited in the complaint, the men opted only for the machine guns. They would “hold off” on anything more.

Riverdale Press : Rapid arrest culminates year of patient planning

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Rapid arrest culminates year of patient planning

By N. Clark Judd | May 28, 2009

Four men are in jail in Westchester County following what prosecutors say was a May 20 attempt to bomb two Riverdale synagogues.

An army of state and city police, as well as federal law enforcement agents, descended upon a sport-utility vehicle parked on Independence Avenue at around 9 p.m. that night and arrested James Cromitie, David Williams, 28, Onta Williams, 32, and Laguerre Payen, 27, who are charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles.

The arrest was violent and quick and its organizers managed to keep it a secret, even to police at the 50th Precinct. Capt. John D’Adamo, the Precinct commander, told The Press that he was the only one at the Kingsbridge stationhouse who was informed of the operation. It had been developing for many months, but the captain did not learn of it until the day before, according to a law enforcement source.

Although no one at either synagogue was warned of the threat, an undercover officer was in the Riverdale Temple “on a pretext” the source said.

When it went down, the arrest went according to plan. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said it could not have taken longer than 25 minutes.

Lindsay Sherman, who was in her Independence Avenue apartment nearby, heard what sounded like gunshots — likely the shattering glass — and shouting. Daniel Langer, sitting on his terrace, saw flashing lights as law enforcement sprang into action, pushing a dark-skinned man — apparently one of the suspects — into a police car.

Marilyn Sopher, who lives about a third of a mile from Riverdale Temple, reported hearing more aircraft over her home than she had ever heard before.

Riverdale Yacht Club members who had gathered for a cocktail party at 6 p.m. noticed a police boat patrolling near the Hudson shore. They were told that the commissioner was coming to the club for dinner and that the boat was in position to protect him. In fact, the boat was not supposed to be so obviously placed, and within minutes nothing could be seen but the ripples of its wake.

Prosecutors say the four men procured what they thought were improvised explosive devices containing C-4 plastic explosive, which they planted in two cars, one outside of Riverdale Jewish Center and another outside of Riverdale Temple. They planned to travel to Newburgh, N.Y., where they live, and then fire a Stinger surface-to-air missile — which was incapable of being fired and was provided by an FBI informant — at military aircraft at Stewart International Airport, prosecutors say. The airport is also used by the New York Air National Guard and the U.S. Air Force, which flies C-5, C-17 and C-130 cargo planes from there to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the criminal complaint against the defendants.

But they didn’t get that far, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said May 21 at a press conference. As soon as all four men returned to their SUV, police ambushed them, shattering the vehicle’s windows and pulling out the alleged would-be bombers. The men were then whisked from the scene.

Approached at the federal courthouse in White Plains, N.Y. May 21, where the four men appeared briefly before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa M. Smith, all the defendants’ attorneys declined to comment.

All but Mr. Payen arrived in Ms. Smith’s courtroom that morning, hands shackled to their waists. As Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder began describing what the men are accused of doing, Mr. Cromitie and Mr. Williams appeared to frown and shake their heads as if frustrated.

Mr. Cromitie requested medical treatment for injuries on his back and arms that he apparently sustained from the shattered windows during the arrest. Mr. Payen had what appeared to be stitches under a bandage on his forehead when he appeared in court later that afternoon.

Mr. Cromitie admitted in court to having smoked marijuana the day of his arrest.

Mr. Payen, who told the judge in a separate appearance that afternoon that he cannot read or write in English, appeared to barely understand what was going on. Mr. Payen’s attorney told the judge that the alleged co-conspirator was schizophrenic or bipolar, or both, and taking medications for both conditions.

His attorney, Marilyn Reader, did not return a follow-up call requesting comment on his physical condition that day.

These brief moments in the public eye, prosecutors say, come after nearly a year under close watch by investigators. According to the criminal complaint against them, an FBI cooperating witness met Mr. Cromitie in June 2008 at a Newburgh mosque. In the ensuing months, Mr. Cromitie became increasingly specific in his desire to do harm to the United States, prosecutors charge.

Since last October, Mr. Cromitie and his alleged co-conspirators repeatedly met the federal informant at the Newburgh house investigators had wired with video and audio equipment, according to the criminal complaint.

Other news outlets have begun to explore the FBI informer’s extensive role in the plot. The New York Times reported May 23 that members of the Newburgh mosque in question believe the informer was a man they called Maqsood, of Pakistani descent, who hung out after services and offered cellphones, jobs and computers to young congregants.

The mosque’s imam and some of its members figured “Maqsood” was a government informant, The Times reported, and shied away from him.

Unless the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York secures a grand jury indictment before June 5, the alleged conspirators’ next court appearance will be that day before Ms. Smith.

Times Herald-Record : Public might not hear all evidence in Stewart terror case

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Public might not hear all evidence in Stewart terror case

Terror-probe secrecy an issue

By Oliver Mackson | May 30, 2009

WHITE PLAINS — The case of four Newburgh men accused of plotting to blow up synagogues and military planes is likely to draw plenty of public interest, but it might also prompt a judge to put some evidence off-limits to the public.

Two similar terrorism cases in New York's federal courts prompted judges to sign protective orders that put classified information under wraps, with defense lawyers agreeing never to disclose it — even after the cases end.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said it's too early to tell whether prosecutors will ask for such an order. But a former federal prosecutor with experience reviewing wiretap applications for the U.S. Justice Department predicted such an order will be sought in the Newburgh case.

"In a case of this magnitude, this sensitive, the government is given wide latitude in protecting the methods, the means and the sources of information involved in the case," said David Hoovler, a former assistant U.S. attorney and Orange County prosecutor who's now in private practice in Chester.

In a similar case being prosecuted in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, a judge has issued an order that covers classified evidence against four men accused of plotting to blow up jet fuel supply lines and storage tanks at JFK International Airport.

Two years ago, a federal judge in Albany signed a protective order that covered classified evidence against two Albany men convicted on conspiracy charges involving the sale of a missile that was supposed to be deployed by terrorists.

The sale was a sting, and the government informant who arranged the deal has been named as the same informant who led the Newburgh four to believe they were buying armaments.

Worries over sealed files

Judge Thomas McAvoy's sealing order was challenged by news organizations and the New York Civil Liberties Union, which argued it was too broad. McAvoy eventually ruled that redacted versions of some documents could be kept in the public court file. Still, the NYCLU's Christopher Dunn sees reason for worry.

"There's been a notable trend since 9/11 for there to be more sealed court filings, and that certainly reduces the public's understanding of these prosecutions," he said. "It's very difficult to know if the courts are getting this right because we don't know what's in the sealed documents."

NYT : Suspects in Terror Bombing Plot: Drug Arrests and Prison Conversions

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Suspects in Terror Bombing Plot: Drug Arrests and Prison Conversions

By AL BAKER | May 21, 2009

Four men from Newburgh, N.Y., were arrested on Wednesday night, charged with trying to carry out what they believed was a bomb attack on two synagogues in the Riverdale section of the Bronx and the simultaneous shooting down of military aircraft in Newburgh.

James Cromitie

Officials identified the leader as James Cromitie, a career criminal born in Brooklyn on Dec. 24, 1964. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said he had a record of 27 arrests, at least a dozen for drug offenses, beginning in 1987. He spent a total of 12 years in state prison, the most recent stint for a 1998 conviction for selling cocaine to an undercover officer behind a school in the Bronx.

He was paroled in 2004 and moved to Newburgh from the Bronx in March 2005.

His mother, Adele Cromitie, 65, said she had last seen her son three years ago, when he came to her apartment in the Castle Hill neighborhood of the Bronx, where she has lived for 26 years. It was the first time she had seen him in years.

He took her up to Newburgh and introduced her to the woman he was living with and said that he had become a Muslim. He was raised an Episcopalian, she said. In his first jail stint he listed his religion as Baptist; in the second and third ones, as Muslim.

Mr. Cromitie’s sister, Wanda Walker, said she was shocked to learn of her brother’s arrest while watching television Thursday morning. She said she was unaware that her brother may have had extreme political views. She had last spoken to him about two years ago when she thought he was working at a Wal-Mart or Kmart store.

“Right now, to me he’s, like, the dumbest person I ever came in contact with in my life,” Ms. Walker said. She added that as far as she knew, he was not a Muslim, but said “they do a little time in jail and they don’t eat pork no more.”

Ms. Cromitie and her daughter said that Mr. Cromitie was in the middle in a family of 10 children, and was raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Ms. Cromitie said her son had a nickname as a child: “Fildee,” for a character in an old TV commercial who used to encourage throwing trash in trash cans by saying, “fill dee basket.”

His sister, Ms. Walker, remembered him as a jokester, always singing gospel songs or oldies and mimicking Smokey Robinson or Luther Vandross.

“You could be down, on your downest day and downest luck, and he’d make you laugh,” Ms. Walker said. “I’m still waiting for the punch line of all of this.”

Ms. Cromitie said Mr. Cromitie’s father, James Walker, left when James Cromitie was 3 years old. She said she had seen him only once in more than 20 years.

She raised 10 children on her own. “He never did anything for Fildee,” she said about the father. Although Mr. Cromitie was said to have told people his parents had lived in Afghanistan, Ms. Cromitie and Ms. Walker said the family had no ties to that country.

Those who lived around Mr. Cromitie on Lake Drive in Newburgh described his as a good-natured neighbor who never spoke of religion or politics.

“To hear this just blew my mind,” said one neighbor, who gave her name as Kristina L. “I would have never assumed he was a terrorist.”

Onta Williams

Onta Williams, also known as Hamza, was born on June 29, 1976, in Newburgh, and his father left him when he was young. He went to prison in the mid-1990s on a drug charge, and there he converted to Islam, said an uncle, Richard Williams. In 2003 he went to federal prison on drug charges.

He was addicted to crack and cocaine since he was 15 or 16, a lawyer of his, Sol Lesser, said, according to a court transcript of his sentencing in April 2003.

Onta Williams’s mother died just before he was released from prison in July 2007, said Richard Williams. He also separated from his wife in the last three years.

He loves to eat, and was a good football player in junior high, his uncle said. He has a 14-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter, and moved in with a new girlfriend and her son in Newburgh in February.

Mr. Williams said his nephew worked at CNS, a loading company, and spent his free time at a mosque or with fellow Muslims. The uncle said that he, too, served time in prison and became wary of the converted Muslims he met inside.

He said that because of this, he tried to warn his nephew, but to no avail. “I did not condone his religion, but when I talked to him about it he would say to me, ‘You can’t tell me anything about the Muslim religion because they’re my supporters and they’re my family,’ ” Richard Williams said. “He told me, ‘They’re more my family than you.’ ”

David Williams IV

In recent weeks Richard Williams said he rarely saw Onta Williams, despite pleas. Richard said he fell ill with flu and, worried that it was swine flu, begged Onta to come bring him medicine. Onta ignored him, he said.

“This ordeal, whatever was going on was the reason he wouldn’t come to visit me,” Richard Williams said.

David Williams IV

David Williams IV, not related to Onta Williams, was born on Feb. 9, 1981. His mother, Elizabeth McWilliams, said he was raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with two younger brothers. He lived in East New York, Brooklyn, but spent a lot of time at his mother’s house in Newburgh, a few doors down from Mr. Cromitie.

At an appearance on Thursday in Federal District Court in White Plains, Eric Snyder, an assistant United States attorney, said Mr. Williams — referred to in court papers as Daoud and DL — was, “bragging, boasting, that he would shoot anyone who tried to stop him.”

According to the prosecutor, Mr. Williams bought a pistol in a Brooklyn housing project for $700 from a man Mr. Williams described to an F.B.I. informer as a “supreme Blood gang leader.” And he told the informant that if the informant hadn’t been there when he made the purchase, he would have killed the gun seller and kept the $700, said Mr. Snyder, the prosecutor.

His mother said he served time in prison on a drug charge. Arrested in 2003 with cocaine in his pocket, he was sentenced to up to three years in prison after pleading guilty, according to a transcript of his February 2005 parole hearing.

But now, she said, he had been getting his life together: He had worked for six months in the kitchen at Boulder Creek Steakhouse in the Spring Creek area of Brooklyn, but left two months ago; he studied computers at ASA Institute in Downtown Brooklyn.

He has a 7-year-old daughter and an infant son, and was recommitting to them, his mother said. She said he never talked about religion — and she said that though the family is Roman Catholic, he is Muslim, a religion he got from his father.

Co-workers at the steakhouse, in the Gateway Center Mall, said Mr. Williams was something of a ladies’ man. “He was always reading books on the line when it was slow,” said one co-worker who did not give her name because her bosses had forbade employees to talk to reporters. “Always reading an Arab book, the Koran, I think.”

Aahkiyaah Cummings, Mr. Williams’s aunt, said the last time she saw him, about a week ago, he seemed distant. Ms. Cummings said she gave Mr. Williams a hug outside his mother’s apartment and felt a change.

“You know your family, and one of the things I always looked forward to was a hug from David because there was such realness, such love,” she said. “But after I embraced him I said to my husband: ‘Something is not right. You need to talk to him.’ ”

Laguerre Payen

Laguerre Payen was born in Haiti on Sept. 24, 1981, officials said. In 2002, he shot two 16-year-olds with a BB gun on Route 59 in Monsey, N.Y., according to his January 2005 parole hearing transcript; one was hit near his left eye, the other behind an ear, according to court records.

He served about 15 months in prison, where he reported himself as Roman Catholic, but converted to Islam there, according to Hamin Rashada, an assistant imam from the Islamic Learning Center of Orange County. He counseled Mr. Payen in a program to help former prisoners re-enter the outside world.

He was quiet and evasive, unemployed and poor, shifting between rooming houses and homelessness; but he was working to readjust to society, Mr. Rashada said. “He has some very serious psychological problems,” he said, adding that Mr. Payen was on medications and talked in circles.

The imam said Mr. Payen had a shallow and misguided understanding of Islam. He said he asked Mr. Payen if he had extremist views about the government. “He said, ‘Mr. Rashada, I can’t even get a job here because I’m not a citizen, I don’t involve myself in that type of stuff.’ ”

Mr. Payen has a 3-year-old son, who lives with his mother elsewhere in Orange County, Mr. Rashada said.

Immigration officials would not say if Mr. Payen had been in the country legally, and it was unclear when he came to the United States, but at his parole hearing in November 2004 he told the judge he was “a legal resident.”

Shortly thereafter, however, Immigration and Customs Enforcement began deportation proceedings because of his criminal conviction. An immigration judge issued a deportation order against Mr. Payen on Sept. 27, 2008, immigration officials said. But the judge’s order also blocked his immediate removal from the country, officials said, giving no further details.

In some cases, a judge may issue a deportation order and, at the same time, temporarily block the deportation if the defendant can prove that he would suffer severe persecution or torture in his homeland. It is unclear whether such an argument was used in Mr. Payen’s case.

While some people facing deportation, particularly violent criminals, are held in detention centers, others are released and ordered to report periodically to the authorities until their removal from the country.

Immigration officials said Mr. Payen had been released under these terms and had been reporting “regularly.”

NY Daily News : 'Stupidest man on the planet', says sister of James Cromitie, alleged would-be Bronx terrorist

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

'Stupidest man on the planet', says sister of James Cromitie, alleged would-be Bronx terrorist

BY Matthew Lysiak, Chloe Rosenberg and Corky Siemaszko | DAILY NEWS WRITERS | May 23, 2009

Some terrorists.

The four fools who conspired to blow up two Bronx synagogues in the name of Allah were booze-swilling losers who hung out at a Roman Catholic community center in upstate Newburgh.

"Amateurs," Bloomberg said Friday. "That doesn't mean they couldn't have killed a lot of people. But they were not part of a professional worldwide terrorist ring."

The alleged ringleader was 44-year-old James Cromitie, a career crook from the Bronx who converted to Islam while in jail.

His big sister, Wanda Walker, called him "the stupidest man on the planet."

"I'm still waiting for the punchline," Walker, 45, said yesterday. "This is a like a joke to me. I'm waiting for the camera to come out of the closet and say, 'This is Candid Camera.'"

His cohorts are David Williams, 28, a former chef who also did time for drug dealing; Onta Williams, 32; and Haitian immigrant Lagueere Payen, deemed too insane to be deported after an assault conviction.

Both Williamses spent a lot of time hanging around on Cromitie's porch in Newburgh. Neighbors said they routinely barbecued and boozed it up even though devout Muslims shun alcohol and pork.

Another haunt for the gang: the Newburgh Ministry, a Catholic shelter open to people of all faiths.

"Those four would come into our ministry and sit down and drink coffee on a regular basis," said a source.

"They never caused trouble. They just sat and drank their coffee and talked. Maybe they were plotting?"With Celeste Katz