Entrapped: FBI targets left-out youth of color

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As U.S. wars in the Middle East drag on, the Obama Administration is in desperate need of an excuse to clamp down on dissent over U.S. foreign policy there. Enter the war on “homegrown terrorism.”

In the 1950s, communists were the bogeymen used to justify the Cold War against the Soviet Union and a huge U.S. arms buildup. Today, the Department of Justice and FBI are waging a similar witch-hunt, only this time targeting primarily Arab Americans, Muslims, and young men of color. Socialists and anti-war rad-icals, especially in the pro-Palestinian solidarity movement, are also on the line. (See FBI widens witch-hunt.)

In one recent example of this so-called war to root out domestic terrorists, FBI spooks “caught” Mohamed Mohamud, a 19-year-old Somali-American who, they claimed, almost bombed a tree-lighting ceremony in Oregon. In late November, media blared the news that FBI agents had saved thousands of Portlanders from death. But as details emerged, public shock turned to anger. Not only had agents provided the teen the fake bomb, they had groomed him in the plot for months. Said Saba Ahmed, whose brother grew up with Mohamud, “This guy has been framed really badly.”

Dig deeper and the FBI’s repressive political aims and racist methods surface. In a campaign reminiscent of how the government trampled the civil rights of Japanese-Americans during World War II, the FBI is today sending provocateurs into Muslim and Arab American communities, to create terrorist plots where none exist.

The aim of this witch-hunt is to whip up fear and support for the phony war on terror, demonize and marginalize communities with ties to the Middle East, and silence all criticism of U.S. war aims, especially its backing of Israeli imperialism.

The war at home. With direction from the U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder, the FBI is dumping tax dollars into a vast domestic spy network. In addition to eavesdropping, raiding homes of anti-war activists, and engaging in other unconstitutional acts, the FBI is sending provocateurs into Muslim and Arab American communities to find young men who can be lured into misdeeds — often using offers of money and goods. In Irvine, Calif., one operative was so aggressive in his methods that leaders of a Mosque sought a restraining order to keep him away.

Another case in December involved Antonio Martinez (also called Muhammad Hussain), a 21-year-old construction worker in Baltimore. Agents provided Martinez with an SUV and fake bomb, as well as months of coaching. In Newburgh, N.Y., four young Black men, all ex-prisoners in their twenties, were lured into a fake bomb plot by an FBI informant who used offers of jobs, food, help with medical bills, and more.

The men now face life in prison. At trial, their overburdened defense attorneys argued the FBI entrapped them. But courts, no matter how outrageous FBI methods, are ruling harshly, thanks to the bipartisan anti-terror hype and hysteria.

Other cases, including the Fort Dix Five and Liberty City Seven, follow similar patterns, where paid provocateurs target men of color, mostly young, poor and disenfranchised as a result of their economic, religious, and/or immigration status.

At one recent forum in New York City to discuss this growing trend, Alicia McWilliams, aunt of a Newburgh Four defendant, summarized the FBI’s modus operandi: “They pick the most vulnerable county in the state. Where there’s no jobs, where there’s no training. Newburgh is where the unskilled live. You can’t tell me these individuals masterminded anything.”

Red Scare redux. Under President Obama, liberal and progressive organizations have too often excused the administration’s attacks on civil liberties. But as the Department of Homeland Security escalates police state measures (airport full body scans, ICE raids, etc.), opposition is heating up. This is especially true in Muslim and Arab communities and the anti-war movement, where the FBI has focused its fire.

To boost support for repressive policies, Attorney General Holder is striving to convince the public that domestic terrorists really are lurking everywhere.

Not to be outdone, Republicans intend to kick the witch-hunt into overdrive. New York’s Rep. Peter King, new chair for the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, plans to hold hearings on the “radicalization of Muslims” and “homegrown terrorism.”

This grandstanding fuels bigotry and real attacks against Muslims and Arab Americans. While the FBI trolls “jihad” chat rooms, the Minutemen, Nazis, Sarah Palin, and Fox News talk of shooting their opponents — and sometimes do, or inspire others, such as Arizona shooter Jared Loughner.

Democrats and Republicans mouth concern over this rightwing violence. But the test is whether they speak up and defend those under attack.

Shortly after the agency sensationalized its capture of Mohamud in Portland, a mosque the teen attended in nearby Corvallis was torched in retribution. Arsons, vandalism, Koran burnings and hate rallies are becoming common. But this kind of terrorism is ignored or whitewashed by the FBI.

Resistance is growing. Clearly, these attacks won’t be going away any time soon. But government dirty tactics are also creating a breed of activists who are not easily intimidated. This is good news.

In Oregon, residents quickly organized a vigil to show their support for the Muslim community. Later, Portlanders spoke against establishing a Joint Terrorism Task Force there.

In New York, Arab Americans, Muslims, and civil rights groups have organized forums to educate about FBI entrapment. Lamis Deek, of the National Lawyers Guild and Al-Awda NY, characterized the attacks as a threat that imperils everyone’s constitutional rights, and called for a collective defense.

Across the U.S., student groups involved in Palestinian solidarity work signed a letter condemning the FBI raids and grand jury summons against anti-war socialists in the Midwest. And in several cities, defense committees are helping victims of FBI entrapment. Readers can learn about these efforts through Project SALAM, Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims, at www.projectsalam.org.

As Obama and both major parties ratchet up repression, the best response is an aggressive and radical offense that educates about who the real terrorists are — the U.S. and global capitalist ruling class.

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