Judge Labels FBI Informant as “Villain”; Delayed Ruling Fails to Aid Two Individuals Convicted in Terrorism Sting

by Joshua Brown
Manipulative Informant

In a harsh judgment the previous month, a judge criticized the FBI for employing a manipulative informant, whom she referred to as a “villain,” to coax a group of Muslim men into participating in a fictitious scheme to target military planes and synagogues in the suburbs of New York City. The judge ordered the release of three individuals from incarceration, asserting that the true mastermind behind the conspiracy was the United States itself.

Now, an individual who was convicted in a different sting operation conducted by the same FBI informant hopes that the recent ruling will prompt U.S. prosecutors to reevaluate the fairness of comparable counterterrorism activities that followed the 9/11 terror attacks.

Yassin Aref, a former imam who spent 14 years in federal custody due to a case involving a fabricated story about a Stinger missile and a business loan extended to an Albany pizza shop owner, expressed his optimism: “Hopefully this will mark the initial stage for the Justice Department to scrutinize all those instances of conspiracy and entrapment.”

Aref and the pizza shop owner were apprehended in 2004 as part of several FBI stings overseen by a paid civilian operative named Shahed Hussain, whose actions have been under scrutiny by civil liberties organizations for years.

Hussain arrived in the U.S. with his family in the 1990s, fleeing false murder accusations in his native Pakistan. Settling in Albany, he worked as a translator until his involvement in aiding someone to fraudulently obtain a driver’s license led him to collaborate with the FBI in exchange for leniency.

During that period, American law enforcement was intensively searching for “sleeper cells” involved in planning attacks on U.S. soil. Hussain cooperated with the FBI to approach individuals suspected of sympathizing with Islamic militant groups, aiming to determine if they could be persuaded into committing unlawful acts.

Among his targets were four men from Newburgh, New York, who were arrested in 2009, convicted of plotting antisemitic attacks, and sentenced to 25 years in prison. While the courts upheld their convictions, deeming them willing participants in a conspiracy to plant explosives at a Bronx synagogue, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon granted compassionate release to three of the four, citing the FBI’s use of a manipulative agent to exploit “hapless, easily manipulated and penurious petty criminals.”

In a ruling on July 28, McMahon characterized these individuals as having no connection to any terrorist group and lacking any prior inclination towards violent extremism before encountering Hussain.

The ruling struck a chord with defendants and legal representatives involved in a 2004 case initiated by Hussain against two individuals linked to an Albany mosque, Aref and former pizza shop owner Mohammed Hossain.

Under the guise of a successful entrepreneur, Hussain befriended Hossain, ultimately offering him a loan of $50,000 for his struggling business. However, he also suggested that the money would originate from the sale of a shoulder-fired missile intended to assassinate a Pakistani diplomat in New York City.

Hossain later stated that he regarded the discussion about an attack as a jest and perceived the missile he was shown as a plumbing supply. Driven by religious reasons, he asked his imam, Aref, to witness the business transaction, similar to a notary.

Both Aref and Hossain, now released after lengthy prison terms for charges including money laundering, concealing support for a weapon of mass destruction attack, and providing aid to a terrorist organization, assert their innocence.

Hossain expressed, “I was a businessman looking after my children.” He maintained that the government manipulated him into a situation he didn’t comprehend. Aref, speaking from his native Iraq, stated, “The government aimed to portray me as a significant threat, fabricating danger where there was none. When they couldn’t find real terrorists, they resorted to creating them.”

The FBI, Department of Justice, and regional U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment. In the past, Deputy Attorney General James Comey noted the extensive efforts to infiltrate potential threats, while former U.S. Attorney Glenn Suddaby labeled the defendants as inclined to support terrorism after their convictions.

However, critics, using the Albany case as evidence, argued that the government’s response to 9/11 was excessive. They maintained that rather than informing on potential terrorists, Hussain was effectively steering individuals toward illegal actions.

Judge McMahon characterized Hussain as “highly unsavory,” asserting that he manipulated his unsuspecting targets through persuasive language and substantial financial incentives.

Terence Kindlon, the attorney who represented Aref, remarked that McMahon’s criticism of government-led conspiracy aligned with their argument. He termed the case “contrived,” conducted in the aftermath of the emotional impact of 9/11.

Hussain is believed to have returned to Pakistan, yet his son continued to manage a limo company in upstate New York. In 2018, a vehicle from the company was involved in a fatal accident, resulting in his son’s manslaughter conviction for evading safety regulations.

The FBI refuted any involvement allowing the limousine company to operate and emphasized non-interference in the case’s prosecution.

Aref, 53, was deported following his prison sentence, while Hossain, 68, was released in 2020 and resides in Albany. Although he no longer owns the pizza shop, he manages a few rental properties. The experience left him with lasting anxieties. Looking back, Hossain expressed, “Reflecting on what happened just leaves me emotionally numb.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Manipulative Informant

What is the main theme of the text?

The text primarily focuses on a judge’s criticism of the FBI’s utilization of a manipulative informant in counterterrorism operations and its implications on convictions.

Who were the individuals targeted by the FBI’s informant?

The FBI’s informant targeted a group of Muslim men and approached individuals suspected of sympathizing with Islamic militant groups.

What was the judge’s ruling regarding the FBI’s actions?

The judge issued a scathing ruling, asserting that the FBI employed a manipulative informant to lead the individuals into a fictitious plot. She ordered the release of three individuals, stating that the true mastermind behind the conspiracy was the United States itself.

How does the ruling impact other similar cases?

The ruling has prompted hopes that U.S. prosecutors will review the fairness of comparable counterterrorism operations carried out after the 9/11 attacks.

What were the criticisms against the FBI’s informant?

Critics, including civil liberties groups, have criticized the informant’s tactics, arguing that he manipulated naive individuals into unlawful activities rather than genuinely detecting threats.

Were there other cases involving the same informant?

Yes, the informant was involved in several other FBI sting operations, including one targeting individuals connected to an Albany mosque.

What consequences did the informant face for his actions?

While the informant is believed to have returned to Pakistan, his son continued to manage a limo company in upstate New York. One of the company’s vehicles was involved in a fatal accident, leading to his son’s conviction for manslaughter.

How did the convicted individuals react to their situations?

The individuals who were convicted, such as the former imam and the pizza shop owner, assert their innocence. They claim to have been manipulated into deals they did not fully comprehend.

How did the judge describe the actions of the informant?

The judge described the informant as “highly unsavory” and accused him of encouraging his targets with persuasive language and substantial financial incentives.

What impact did the text suggest on the broader perception of government actions post-9/11?

The text suggests that the actions highlighted in the text, including the use of informants to steer individuals towards illegal activities, became emblematic of concerns that the government overreacted in its response to the 9/11 attacks.

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SoccerChamp August 8, 2023 - 6:00 pm

FBI had this dude actin’ all villainous, and a judge went all mad, said FBI’s fault, not those guys. Two dudes got outta jail, but like, too late, ya know? cray cray!

Jake23 August 9, 2023 - 12:13 am

so this judge, like, totally said the FBI used some, uh, villain kinda informant? and like, it’s too late for two guys who got in trouble for terror stuff? that’s messed up, man!

CoolCat87 August 9, 2023 - 2:14 am

wait, wait, so this judge lady was like, FBI used this “villain” guy to trick some Muslim guys into fake terror stuff, and now two of ’em are already in jail? harsh, dude!

Liz_Bee August 9, 2023 - 3:55 am

omg, I read this, right? The judge was all mad at the FBI, called their informant a “villain,” and now, two guys got caught up in some fake plan, and it’s too late for ’em. Crazy stuff, huh?


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