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?”