FBI Paid Informant with Drug Record $250,000 to Infiltrate Accused Terror Group

Thursday, November 22, 2012

An informant who played a critical role in the arrest of four suspected Southern California terrorist wannabes was paid $250,000 and given certain “immigration benefits” to infiltrate the group.

The incentives raise questions about the role played by the informant―who has a prior conviction for selling a drug used to make methamphetamine―in the group’s activities. He is the primary source of incriminating statements and actions made by the men since he joined the group in March.     

The possibility of entrapment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was not lost on the lawyer for Ralph DeLeon, one of the men accused of plotting to join Al Qaeda and targeting coalition troops in Afghanistan. “We see the same thing in drug cases. Informants push and prod until someone gives in,” Randolph K. Diggs told the Los Angeles Times. “They have a financial incentive.”

An FBI sting went awry in 2010 when informant Craig Monteilh, who was paid $177,000 to infiltrate Muslim communities, was slapped with a restraining order to stop pestering fellow mosque members. Monteilh, a convicted forger of bank notes, went public. He accused the FBI of encouraging him to entrap Muslims, revealed secret FBI methods and sued the bureau.    

An April article in the New York Times Sunday Review written by David K. Shipler, the author of “Rights at Risk: The Limits of Liberty in Modern America,” listed a series of seemingly lethal terror plots thwarted by the authorities that turned out to be something less than what initially met the eye.

“A would-be suicide bomber was intercepted on his way to the Capitol; a scheme to bomb synagogues and shoot Stinger missiles at military aircraft was developed by men in Newburgh, N.Y.; and a fanciful idea to fly explosive-laden model planes into the Pentagon and the Capitol was hatched in Massachusetts,” Shipler wrote.

But they were all facilitated by the FBI using undercover agents and informers, and questions have been raised about whether the threats would have come anywhere near fruition without professional law enforcement assistance. Undercover sting operations are a mainstay of counter-terrorism efforts and have a high degree of success when prosecuted in court, partially because the law doesn’t require that they show a predisposition to commit a crime.

The alleged California group leader, Sohiel Kabir, was arrested in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was said to be making plans to bring DeLeon and Miguel Santana to the country for terrorist training. Kabir is a native Afghan and naturalized citizen living in Pomona who served a year in the U.S. Air Force. Santana, of Upland, is a Mexican national in the process of applying for U.S. citizenship; DeLeon of Ontario is a legal permanent resident from the Philippines; and Arifeen Gojali of Riverside is an American of Vietnamese descent.  

Details of the informant’s role in facilitating the group’s plans are still unknown and no one is comparing the case to an alleged plot to shoot Stinger missiles at military aircraft. When U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon sentenced James Cromitie, a low-level drug dealer fond of rants against Jews, to 25 years in prison, she said, “Only the government could have made a terrorist out of Mr. Cromitie, whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in its scope.”                

But as Shipler pointed out in the New York Times, “Some threats are real, others less so. In terrorism, it’s not easy to tell the difference.”   

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Dependence on Paid Informant in Terror Case May Aid Defense (by Phil Willon and Andrew Khouri, Los Angeles Times)

California Terror Plot Case: Attorney Skeptical of Paid Informant (by Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times)

4 Southern California Men Held in Plot to Join Al Qaeda, Taliban (by Robert J. Lopez, Los Angeles Times)

FBI Paid Ex-Con $177,000 to Entrap Muslims (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

How FBI Entrapment Is Inventing “Terrorists”—and Letting Bad Guys Off the Hook (by Rick Perlstein, Rolling Stone)

Terrorist Plots, Hatched by the F.B.I. (by David K. Shipler, New York Times Sunday Review)

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