Recently by William Norman Grigg: Hysterical Blindness
As an ex-convict, Newburgh, New York resident James Cromitie was thankful to find a steady job. As a Muslim convert, he was particularly grateful that he could wear his kufi – a knit skullcap akin to a yarmulke – at work without provoking his supervisor’s disapproval. Some of the customers, however, took unintended offense.
“They know I’m a Muslim,” Cromitie told Maqsood, a friend he had met at the local mosque, in an October 19, 2008 phone conversation. “My boss say, ‘Hey, Abdul, I want you to go help this lady.’ And then she look at me [and says], ‘Oh. What is you, Muslim?’ I’m like, ‘Yes.’ ‘Oh, I’ll get someone else to help me…. They really don’t like Muslims.”
When Maqsood asked why people “don’t like Muslims,” Cromitie, displaying a touch of frustration, replied: “Only Allah knows…. I think they think that we are better than them, but we don’t think that.” He went on to describe a few workplace conversations in which he described some teachings and practices of his faith; one of those chats was with an individual Cromitie described as “some guy I talked to, [a] nice Jewish guy.”
This conversational thread proved irresistible to Maqsood, who eagerly seized it and gave it a stout yank. According to Maqsood, a wealthy man from Pakistan who claimed to be a Muslim religious scholar, the Prophet Mohammed “has forbidden us to have these, the Jews, Yahuds, because they are responsible for all of the evils in the world.”
For the rest of the conversation, Maqsood persistently wove anti-Jewish resentment into the conversation, seeking to stitch Cromitie’s personal concerns into a larger canvas of hatred. He told Cromitie that “every second adviser in the White House, they Yahuds,” and tried to convince him that the bloodshed carried out by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan – “where your blood comes from” – was a reflection of the all-encompassing evil of the Jews.
In fact, Maqsood had been plying Cromitie with messages of this kind for months, and the wealthy Pakistani was a little frustrated that his American acquaintance didn’t appear to be a particularly apt pupil. Oh, sure, Cromitie would occasionally let slip a derogatory reference to Jewish people, particularly women who had insulted him at work. But for all of his flaws, mistakes, and frustrations, Cromitie displayed a persistent strain of embattled decency that led him to see Jews as individuals, rather than as a undifferentiated mass of malevolence.
“Even some of our [Muslim] brothers is worser than the Yahudi,” Cromitie commented during the October 19 phone chat, displaying an ability to assess individual merit in ways that transcend tribal loyalty. In a similar conversation a week earlier, Cromitie, referring to workplace insults he had experienced because of his Muslim religion, related that his religious convictions gave him the strength to endure them without retaliating: “I’m a Muslim; insha’Allah, Allah will take care of it.”
This was entirely unacceptable, insisted Cromitie’s self-appointed spiritual tutor. It was good to be angry at Jews and other infidels, but mere anger isn’t enough; it has to be transmuted into the kind of “righteous” rage that ends in bloodshed. By way of an example, Maqsood referred to a terrorist bombing of a Marriott hotel in Pakistan. That act, Maqsood insisted, was carried out by people he identified as “brothers” to “send a message” that supposedly brought glory to Allah. The people responsible for that crime were “doing good, wonderful jobs and I’m happy with that,” Maqsood told Cromitie, who didn’t share his self-designated mentor’s enthusiasm.
Maqsood spared no effort to shepherd every conversation with Cromitie in the direction of “jihad.” He would first identify a personal grievance. Then he would tie it thematically to legitimate acts of armed self-defense carried out by Muslims against Washington’s military aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. Then Maqsood, his pose as holy man notwithstanding, worked to seduce Cromitie into accepting the proposition that terrorism is a legitimate form of “holy war.”
Once again, Cromitie found Maqsood’s teachings unconvincing.
“We are kicking their asses in … Kabul,” Maqsood boasted.
“I don’t care,” replied Cromitie.
Undeterred, Maqsood continued to peddle the notion of militancy to someone not inclined to buy in.
“When I, when I see these, these Mushkirks, these Yahud, killing the Palestines, of killing Muslims, of killing people in, in Iraq or in Afghanistan, one of our brothers, I, I always think about going for a cause, you know?” Maqsood hectored Cromitie. “For a cause of Islam. Have you ever thought about that, brother?”
Cromitie, who was earnest in his faith, was obviously not on the same page with the oddly insistent man from Pakistan.
“It’s sad that our Muslim folk and our children folk in Islam has to wake up to a bombing from somebody else every night, cannot sleep, have to be on point 24/7, have to sit up and wait, don’t know what’s coming next,” he replied to Maqsood. “I think we need peace. In some way we have to make it happen.” While he allowed that it may be necessary “to go answer the enemy in a different way,” Cromitie didn’t want to leave the impression that he would countenance violence against the innocent: “Don’t look at it like I, like I wanna be a terrorist or something.”
Oddly enough, although Cromitie was a convert and his Pakistani friend from the local mosque was a life-long Muslim – and self-described scholar – it was the former who espoused the orthodox view of jihad as a war of defense, and the latter who was promoting what traditional Muslims would regard as a heresy, namely jihad as an indiscriminate campaign of lethal violence against non-Muslims.
As Turkish free market advocate Mustafa Akyol points out, the Koran – contrary to the assumptions embraced by modern Islamists and the compulsive mosque-baiters with whom they’re joined in a kind of morbid co-dependency – teaches armed jihad as a defensive enterprise, commands Muslims to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, and prescribes limits even in making war against aggressors.
Those principles, writes Akyol, “led the medieval Islamic jurists to create a literature of jus in bello, or rules of a proper conduct of war. For example, many of those jurists limited or banned the use of mangonels and catapults, for these war machines inflicted indiscriminate casualties on the enemy. In other words, even what the Westerners call ‘collateral damage’ these days was a matter of concern for Muslim scholars of the Middle Ages. It is therefore ironic, and sad, that some of today's Muslims a tiny minority, to be sure are willing to inflict not just ‘collateral’ but also intentional damage on the enemy noncombatants.”
Distinctions of that kind are not recognized by the intellectual architects of Islamic terrorism because their movement is inspired more by the 19th Century nationalism than by the teachings of Mohammed, according to Akyol. Like their counterparts from other backgrounds, those who peddle Islamist nationalism practice a form of indoctrination Akyol calls the “sloganization of scripture” – that is, orphaning passages from the appropriate context and deploying them for the purpose of mobilizing political useful hatred.
Contemporary Muslim terrorists, Akyol observes, “attack innocent lives not because their religion tells them to do that it actually tells them not to do that. They rather attack out of loathing, which is rooted in their political misfortunes.” A sincerely devout Muslim, Akyol insists that for those who genuinely share his convictions, “Nothing, simply nothing, can justify the killing of innocents.”
“Sloganization of scripture” can take the form of weaponizing a handful of passages from one’s own holy books and treating them as a license to commit political murder. It can also mean winnowing a handful of incendiary texts from the sacred books of a different religion and using them to create a suitably hateful caricature. Maqsood, interestingly, appeared to be performing both of those roles in his dialogues with James Cromitie. This isn’t surprising when it’s understood that this purported Muslim holy man was actually an FBI provocateur named Shahed Hussain.
As noted in this space before, Hussain was what federal prosecutors called a terrorism “facilitator.” A wealthy and politically connected criminal from Pakistan, Hussain showed up at the mosque in Newburgh flaunting a large, taxpayer-supplied bankroll and a fleet of late-model luxury cars.
Blessed with a career criminal’s instinct for sizing up a vulnerable target – and, most likely, a detailed FBI dossier on his future victim – Hussain quickly keyed on Cromitie. He was eventually able to round up three others (David Williams and Onta Williams and LaGuerre Payen) to take part in a purported plot to bomb a nearby synagogue and a local Air National Guard base.
All of them attended the same mosque. None of them had displayed any inclination toward militancy before the Feds deposited a terrorism “facilitator” in their midst. Yet a federal jury found all four of them guilty on terrorism charges stemming from a “plot” that was entirely manufactured by the FBI and carried out by way of Hussain.
As U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon remarked during a March 24 post-conviction hearing: “The FBI did not infiltrate a plot. There was no plot.” That is, there was no plot on the part of the railroaded defendants. That there was a plot on the part of the FBI and its pet provocateur is indisputable. This would appear to be a perfect specimen of the process of “radicalizing” Muslims, which His Holiness Peter King, Inquisitor General of the Homeland Security State, considers the most acute existing threat to life, limb, and virtue.
In fact, the infiltration of mosques by Federal terrorism “facilitators” is the dominant form of “radicalization” taking place today. Similar efforts on the part of authentic Muslim militants may well be underway, but the FBI has refined the relevant techniques into a science.
Most American Muslims who refuse to cooperate with the Feds aren’t trying to conceal subversives from the authorities; they’re trying to avoid contact with the FBI’s ever-growing pool of provocateurs and informants. The frame-up of the “Newburgh 4” splendidly illustrates the wisdom behind the decision not to cooperate with the Homeland Security apparatus, which will exploit any opportunity to manufacture a “terrorism plot.”
Through Hussain, the FBI “created the criminal then manufactured the crime,” insists a brief filed on behalf of Cromitie seeking for dismissal of the case on the grounds of “outrageous government conduct.“
Posing as a wealthy and spiritually learned recruiter for the Pakistani terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hussain promised Cromitie and his impoverished friends at least $25,000 apiece (and $250,000 to Cromitie as “ringleader”) for help in planting a bomb at a local synagogue and attacking military aircraft with surface-to-air missiles.
“The evidence at trial disclosed Shahed Hussain’s cynical, but successful, effort to turn James Cromitie from an angry and disaffected man into a man motivated by money and spiritual reward to participate in a terrorist plot,” Cromitie’s brief continues. The Feds “designed, funded, supplied, engineered, and directed every detail of a highly dramatic and frightening – but entirely fake – terrorist plot, leading to the prosecution and conviction of Cromitie and his late-recruited compatriots.”
Once Hussain had focused his attention on Cromitie, he was fiercely determined to suborn the hapless man into carrying out some role in a terrorist “conspiracy” – even though his target was anything but eager to play along. About the only respite Cromitie experienced during the period between late 2008 and early 2009 was the space of several weeks in which “Moqsood” traveled to Pakistan, at FBI expense and under the Bureau’s supervision, to attend a terrorist training camp.
In March 2009, after months of bribes, bullying, and brow-beating, Hussain provided Cromitie with an expensive camera to photographs of the air base and synagogue supposedly targeted in the plot. Rather than doing as he was told, Cromitie actually sold the camera to a neighbor for a fraction of its purchase price. He then told Hussain that he had mistakenly destroyed the camera by sitting on it.
Hussain might have been thinking of that episode during a wiretapped April 5, 2009 conversation in which he tweaked Cromitie for his reluctance to help in the supposed terror plot, despite the promise of a huge payday.
“I have to try to make some money, brother,” Cromitie told Hussain, apparently in reference to his efforts to find honest work.
“I told you, I can make you 250,000 dollars, but you don’t want it brother,” Hussain replied.
The FBI’s provocateur continued to pursue his “reward in two ways” strategy, playing on Cromitie’s religious earnestness and exploiting his financial desperation by insisting that carrying out terrorist would be both pious and profitable. This meant, among other things, that whenever Cromitie would speak of forgiveness and forbearance in the face of hostility toward his Muslim faith, “Hussain – posing as a religious wise man – ‘corrected’ him and proclaimed that the true, religiously mandated approach was to kill non-believers, not out of anger, but for the glory of Allah,” summarizes the defense brief.
These religious appeals were coupled with blatant acts of bribery, shameless manipulation – such as claiming that Cromitie’s reluctance to cooperate was putting Hussain’s life at risk – and, finally, “veiled threats of physical harm against Cromitie.” The provocateur followed a script written by FBI Special Agent Robert Fuller, who supervised every detail of the frame-up. Fuller provided cars, cameras, cell phones, and dummy explosives; he set up a storage warehouse for the bogus explosives and a “safe house” for those involved in the supposed plot.
Using Hussain as a ventriloquist’s dummy in recorded meetings with Cromitie and his friends, Fuller did everything he could to get them to make a dramatic pronouncement of their determination to kill Jews and soldiers out of religious conviction. “Don’t do it just for the money,” Hussain urged Cromitie in one recorded conversation regarding violence against non-Muslims. “But do it, also say, in the name of Allah.”
By early 2009, it must have seemed to Cromitie that he was trapped in some perverse game show. When he wasn’t being whipsawed by Hussain’s passive aggression, Cromitie was being teased with an ever-expanding list of prizes for cooperating: He was offered a BMW, his own barbershop, an expense-paid two-week vacation to Puerto Rico, and $250,000 in cash. All of this was being promised to an ex-con who was frantic to earn an honest living, a man who had a difficult time making enough to pay the rent.
Finally, after months of being pursued by this tenacious pest, Cromitie wearily relented: “Okay. F**k it. I don’t care. Ah, man. Maqsood, you got me.”
The problem here was that neither Cromitie nor any of his friends had any useful skills in carrying out a terrorist plot – no training, no weapons, not even a driver’s license. But they were four living, breathing, black American Muslims; all they had to do was show up at the right time and place to be arrested and photographed as living trophies symbolizing another triumph of the Homeland Security State.
In its reply to Cromitie’s brief, the Regime stipulates to all of the facts while saying – almost in so many words – that it’s perfectly acceptable to manufacture a crime in order to justify prosecuting someone who harbors unacceptable attitudes toward the State.
Hussain insists that prior to his recorded conversations with Cromitie, the target had expressed a desire to travel to Afghanistan to fight against U.S. personnel occupying that country. Those comments were never recorded; in fact, Cromitie was captured on tape saying exactly the opposite.
Nevertheless, according to the Feds, the frame-up was justified because Cromitie was an incipient terrorist on account of his “deeply held desire to avenge the injustices that in his eyes had befallen Islam and Islamic people around the world…. Cromitie hated Jews and the United States government and was not shy about expressing either sentiment…. The exploitation of a defendant’s warped religious beliefs in violence sails far below the threshold of coercion that would be necessary for a viable claim of outrageous government conduct.”
In fact, in every recorded instance in which the persecution of Muslims was addressed, Cromitie maintained that he was willing to leave vengeance in God’s hands, trusting that justice would be done on Judgment Day; it was Hussain, the Feds’ well-compensated veteran provocateur, who consistently peddled a “warped” religious belief in criminal violence against the innocent.
Cromitie had already spent a dozen years behind bars by the time the Feds targeted him for their provocation op. His most recent stint came after he was arrested for selling cocaine to an undercover narcotics operative behind a school. The narc most likely chose that location because of federal sentence enhancements: For someone who makes a living enticing people into committing drug offenses, getting a repeat offender to sell drugs near a school is the equivalent of a Scrabble maven playing “z” on the triple letter score square.
Like everything else of consequence done in the name of counter-terrorism, the Newburgh 4 case was staged for the institutional benefit of the Homeland Security State and the individual career advancement of a handful of FBI agents, federal prosecutors, and one exceptionally squalid informant.
One very telling indication of the perverse priorities at work here is found in the fact that the FBI actually intervened to prevent the arrest of David Williams, Cromitie’s co-defendant, on larceny charges so that they could bust him as part of their contrived terrorist plot.
What political profit would result from allowing local authorities to prosecute Williams on a charge involving an actual property crime? On the other hand, arresting him as part of a black Muslim terrorist cell – now, there’s a bust with a high Q rating. Or, to recur to the Scrabble analogy, that’s like playing the “z” tile on the triple word score square at the intersection of two fifteen-letter words.
In signaling her willingness to hear the Newburgh 4’s appeal, Federal District Judge McMahon candidly described the supposed terrorist conspiracy as a pure Federal fabrication: “The plot was created before our very eyes in this courtroom,” she stated.
“The law allows that to happen,” lied Assistant U.S. Attorney David Raskin in reply.
This is actually quite a stunning admission, coming as it does from someone of exalted rank within the “Justice” Department: He acknowledged that the Feds consider it to be legal and proper to manufacture terrorist plots in order to justify what can only be described as show trials.
This isn’t a news bulletin to people who had been paying attention, but there is some value in getting one of the producers of the long-running melodrama called Homeland Security Theater to make that key admission on the record.