"We’re going to make this much more difficult for you if you don’t cooperate."
This stereotypically thuggish threat issued from a stereotypical thug named Vincent, an FBI agent who was among a half-dozen Feds and local police who descended on the Santa Clara home of 20-year-old Yasir Afifi earlier this month. A few days before that visit, Afifi had discovered a government-issue GPS tracking device attached to his car during an oil change.
A few days later, one of Afifi’s friends posted a photo of the unit (an Orion Guardian ST820 tracking device, which is sold exclusively to law enforcement agencies) to an on-line file-sharing site. This sent the Stasi scurrying to Afifi’s home to reclaim the surveillance gear it had surreptitiously planted on his car. They also took the opportunity to bully and brow-beat the college student, whom they had pestered several months before following an anonymous tip that the natural-born U.S. citizen was a "threat to national security."
During the earlier visit Afifi stiff-armed the Bureau of Frame-ups, Bullying and Intimidation, telling them he would answer their questions if his attorney approved. The Feds appeared to lose interest in Afifi after his attorney contacted the Bureau. In fact, they were continuing to keep him and his friends under surveillance: Not only did they secretly place a tracking device on Afifi’s car, they also kept track of his travel plans, his employment status, and even shadowed him when he took his girlfriend out on dinner dates.
During their visit to reclaim their snooping device, the Feds seemed determined to wring from Afifi some kind of damaging statement about his friend Khaled, who had posted the photo of the GPS tracker. One of the interrogators produced a printout of a blog post written by Khaled that " had something to do with a mall or a bomb," Afifi related to Wired News. He was also told that the FBI had stationed other agents outside Khaled’s house, a statement Afifi described as "weird…. I didn’t really believe anything they were saying."
It is entirely reasonable to believe that every word uttered by a representative of the FBI is a deliberate falsehood. It’s also something in the neighborhood of a certainty that Afifi’s timely and unexpected discovery of the FBI’s tracking device ruined the Bureau’s plans to blackmail him into joining its ever-expanding stable of informant/provocateurs.
Just days before the FBI swarmed Afifi’s home to recover its illicitly planted tracking device, federal prosecutors dropped charges against Afghan immigrant and Arabic language instructor Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, who was accused of concealing "ties to terrorist groups" in his citizenship application.
Niazi’s supposed offense was neglecting to mention the fact that his sister was married to a Taliban leader who — at the time — was distantly allied with someone believed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda. This would mean that Niazi, who had settled in Orange County, California, was "linked" to terrorism in the same way that Dark Helmet was connected to Lone Star in Spaceballs ("I am your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate").
As Niazi pointed out, he didn’t choose his in-laws or be responsible for their chosen associations. But the FBI, like secret police in every despotism, are quick to capitalize on exploitable vulnerabilities of this kind.
Niazi was arrested by the FBI in early 2009. Thomas J. Ropel III, a Special Agent assigned to the Orange County Joint Terrorism Task Force, claimed that Niazi had approached an "undercover informant" and offered to send him to terrorist training camps in Yemen or Pakistan.
In fact, just shortly before the FBI abducted Niazi the Bureau had presented him with what could be called the "Randy Weaver Ultimatum": Either become an informant, or (as Niazi summarized the demand) "we’ll make your life a living hell."
Ironically — or, perhaps, not — two years before being arrested as a supposed terrorist suspect, Niazi had actually reported a potential terrorist threat to the FBI before being presented with that demand. That threat had been issued by Craig Monteilh, aka "Farouk Aziz," the career criminal who had been planted by the FBI as an infiltrator/provocateur in the Irvine mosque attended by Niazi.
The first Friday of June 2007, Niazi and Monteilh — who was posing as an Islamic convert of mixed French-Syrian ancestry — were sharing a ride to the mosque in a car driven by Mohammed Elsisy, an Egyptian-born software engineer. A story published a few weeks later by In Focus News (a periodical covering matters of interest to Muslims in Orange County) described how, apropos of exactly nothing, Monteilh "started talking about the Iraq war," according to Niazi. "He went off on a rant against U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East."
The FBI’s provocateur then asked if either Elsisy or Niazi "knew of an `operation’ he could be part of." This wasn’t the first time Monteilh had made that pitch: Irvine resident Ashruf Zied, who also attended the mosque, recalled that the informant "approached him one day claiming to have access to weapons and asking if he wanted to join him in `waging jihad.’"
Two things are worth noting here.
The first is that, in keeping with standard FBI procedure, Monteilh’s recruitment pitch focused on the real cause of Muslims resentment toward the United States — Washington’s imperial foreign policy — rather than a supposed theological imperative to slaughter and subdue infidels.
The second critical point is that — once again, as is common in cases of this kind — the local Muslims wanted nothing to do with Monteilh once the provocateur began his campaign of incitement. Some of the people who attended the mosque to worship gave the FBI’s inside man a wide berth; others simply stopped attending services.
Immediately after their unsettling conversation with Monteilh, Niazi and Elsisy approached Hussam Ayloush, director of the Southern California Chapter of the Committee on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). According to Ayloush, Niazi and Elsisy were worried that the guy they knew as "Farouk" had "gone crazy or is about to do something…. and they would be considered accomplices since they knew him."