A nineteen year-old Muslim teen from a Chicago suburb, who already faced terrorism charges after an undercover FBI agent convinced him to try and blow up a downtown bar, has been charged with trying to have an FBI agent murdered.
This case has largely flown under the radar, however, in recent weeks, it has been gaining attention because the defense lawyer for the teen, whose name is Adel Daoud, has sought to obtain documents on any surveillance that was used by the FBI to target and arrest him. If any of it the surveillance was unlawful and abusive, like much of the surveillance programs and procedures exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, his defense argues it would be evidence the FBI violated protections against unreasonable searches.
Aside from it having a connection to what Snowden has revealed, the case appears to be a prime example of the kind of terrorism cases the FBI has become experts at manufacturing. Like previous cases, would Daoud have engaged in any of the conduct he is charged with committing if there had not been an undercover agent pushing him to take action?
I detailed nearly a year ago after Daoud was arrested how, according to the Associated Press’s coverage, the FBI spent months spying and targeting Daoud. The FBI monitored Daoud’s activity in “jihadist Internet forums,” where he was apparently accessing articles written by US-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who the Obama administration had placed on a “kill list” and executed by a drone because of his alleged role in al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The FBI monitored Daoud’s online activities and caught him searching for information on how to make bombs. He was also reading “Inspire,” an English-language online magazine published by AQAP. [The AP did not indicate whether the online searches and accessing of articles took place before the undercover agents reached out to talk to him.]
In May 2012, agents “introduced him to another agent who claimed to be a terrorist living in New York.” This third agent met with him “six times in the suburb of Villa Park over the summer and exchanged messages.” Daoud then identified “29 potential targets, including military recruiting centers, bars, malls and tourist attractions in Chicago” and, when he settled on the bar, according to the FBI, he conducted surveillance using Google Street View and “visiting the area in person to take photographs.”
Daoud apparently told the agent about the location selected for bombing, “It’s a bar, it’s a liquor store, it’s a concert. All in one bundle,” and it would be filled with “kuffars,” or non-believers—the “evilest people.”
The teenager met up with the undercover agent after 7 pm in Villa Park on September 14, 2012. They drove downtown. Restaurants and bars were bustling with Chicagoans. Daoud and the agent went into a parking lot, “where a Jeep Cherokee containing the phony bomb was parked.” Daoud then parked the Jeep Cherokee in front of the bar, walked a block away and tried to detonate the bomb. After attempting to blow up the bar, he was arrested.
The entire operation, based on what the FBI put in the affidavit reported on by the AP, was a typical sting operation where a vulnerable person was targeted and the FBI invented a terror plot that this person would commit.
According to Thomas Durkin, the teenager’s attorney, agents convinced Daoud to launch an attack by not only posing as terrorists but by also claiming imams overseas wanted him to engage in terrorism. This contradicted instructions Daoud was receiving from his imams, as they had said “violence ran counter to Islamic teachings.” They played “the imam card,” Durkin told reporters. He added, “I’ve never seen that before.”
The indictment from a federal grand jury alleges that between July 17 and September 14, 2012, “selected, researched and surveilled a target for a terrorist attack to be conducted in Chicago, Illinois, with an explosive device to be supplied by Individual A.” Individual A was a Special Agent “working in an undercover capacity and posing as a terrorist residing in New York,” the same agent Daoud was introduced to him in May 2012.
Allegedly, between October 26, 2012, and November 29, 2012, Daoud engaged in solicitation of murder or attempted murder. He also allegedly “knowingly used and caused another to use a facility of interstate commerce, namely, a cellular telephone utilizing an interstate cellular telephone service provider, with the intent that a murder be committed.” And he allegedly “knowingly attempted to kill another person, namely Individual A, with the intent to prevent the attendance and testimony of that person in an official proceeding.”
The FBI press release indicates the “solicitation count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison; murder-for-hire carries a maximum of 10 years; the obstruction of justice count carries a maximum of 30 years; and each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000.” And Daoud already faced ”a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison for attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a potential maximum of 20 years in prison for attempt to damage or destroy a building by means of an explosive.”
Daoud’s lawyer, Durkin, told the Chicago Tribune “an unreliable street gang leader turned government informant is at the heart of the case against a west suburban teenager accused of soliciting the murder of an undercover FBI agent while in custody on terrorism charges.” A “jailhouse snitch,” one of the “most unreliable types of witnesses a courthouse has ever seen,” is responsible for these additional charges.
In court on September 6, he had a “happy-go-lucky demeanor.” He reportedly had a “goofy grin and waved at his parents” when entering and then “laughed as he fist-bumped his attorney” before being “led away in handcuffs.” All of which Durkin said may show he has “psychological problems.”
Why the new charges? Does it have anything to do with the fact that his defense is challenging the government and trying to force the government to hand over information on the surveillance used to ensnare Daoud in the FBI’s sting operation?
Is this part of some effort to force the defense to not go to trial in April? Will the government now offer a plea deal in the next months understanding that taking a deal is better than challenging the terrorism and murder-for-hire charges, even if the FBI’s role was highly questionable?
If I had to guess what the FBI’s basis for these charges happens to be, Daoud ran his mouth to a fellow inmate—the “jailhouse snitch”—and said something to the effect that he would like to call someone and have the agent who set him up killed if he could. That “snitch” talked to authorities.
Like I argued when this story first broke, this is a product of the fact that law enforcement believes “radicalization” is identifiable. FBI guidelines pertaining to the recruitment of informants currently authorize the agency to place informants in communities where specific criminal activity is not suspected. Informants may also engage in conduct that might otherwise be illegal and there is no “unequivocal ban on entrapment.” (Prior sets of guidelines under former Attorney Generals John Ashcroft and Janet Reno did prohibit an informant from initiating “a plan or strategy to commit a federal, state, or local offense.” Alberto Gonzales removed the prohibition when he was Attorney General.)
Daoud’s case bears a similarity to the cases of the Newburgh Four, whom the FBI targeted because they were poor, Muslim and in need of money; the Fort Dix Five, who were targeted by the FBI after a Circuit City clerk turned in a vacation video of the men saying Allahu Akbar [God is Great]; and the case of Shahawar Siraj Martin, who was sixteen years-old and targeted by the NYPD, which used an informant who became a kind of father figure. The informant in Martin’s case showed Martin Abu Ghraib photos when they first became public and told him it was his “duty as a Muslim to do jihad in response.” In all three cases, the people were vulnerable individuals being targeted for their religious/political views.
Or, perhaps more comparable is the case of Jose Pimentel in New York, who is accused of building a pipe bomb that he planned to explode. This is a state terrorism case that is being advanced, even though the FBI refused to get involved when the NYPD brought Pimentel to their attention. Pimentel converted to Islam and, according to the New York Times, his neighbors found him to be a “somewhat lethargic figure.” He would often sit on a bench for hours with a “blank look” on his face.
Multiple people like Daoud, particularly Muslims, have been targeted by the FBI. Their youth, gullibility and naive ideological views have been exploited in each case. Once the FBI gets them to try and detonate a bomb or participate in bringing about some kind of attack, they quickly become a statistic, one of the many “successes” US senators can tout as they defend giving intelligence agencies nearly limitless powers to fight terrorism.