By Larry Hales
NYC chapter of FIST
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York state Gov. David A. Paterson and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly honored the FBI agents and New York Police Department personnel who foiled the phony FBI-engineered “terror plot.”
Each official took turns May 21 congratulating the federal and local cops, overblowing the circumstances surrounding the arrests of four Black men.
Bloomberg said of the arrests, “I feel safer in the city today than ever before,” and, “They have prevented what could have been a terrible loss of life.”
Paterson said it was “one of the most heinous crimes that has been [planned] in this city for a long time.”
Kelly called the response of the cops and FBI, “a textbook example of how a major investigation should be handled.” (New York Daily News, May 22)
This so-called plot ended when police arrested James Cromitie, 44; David Williams, 28; Onta Williams, 32; and Haitian immigrant Laguerre Payen, 27, as the four allegedly planted two bags supposedly filled with inert plastic explosives at two synagogues in the exclusive Riverdale neighborhood in the Bronx.
As with all the other so-called “homegrown terror plots,” this case is being revealed for what it really is: entrapment. It is one more incident of an FBI informant going fishing, baiting, in particular, Black men and enticing them with money and other favors, directing their conversations and playing upon their anger against their oppression.
This case has many similarities to a so-called plot involving the Miami 7. Five of the Miami defendants of the mostly Haitian group of seven were convicted a week earlier. It is also similar to the phony Fort Dix plot that led to five Muslim men being convicted earlier in May.
Informant promised to help dying brother
Elizabeth McWilliams, the mother of David Williams, said that the FBI informant, Shahed (Malik) Hussain, offered to help save David’s dying brother, who needs a liver transplant and is dying from an immunity disorder, sarcoidosis. McWilliams said, “He promised he would take care of it.” (Daily News, May 24)
James Cromitie’s friend, Kathleen Baynes, said the informant, also known as Maqsood, had given Cromitie rent money and cash. “They come and hit a brother who is down and out,” she said, “and tell him they’ll give him the world. Maqsood is no different than a pimp or drug dealer sitting on 42nd St.” (Daily News, May 24)
The government charged the four men with one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and another count of conspiracy to use an anti-aircraft missile. The four had all been released from prison in the recent past after having served time, mostly for drug convictions.
Cromitie worked at Wal-Mart and Onta Williams at loading and unloading trucks since being released. Another of the men worked at a landscaping company. Their neighbors describe them as nice guys. “There’s nothing bad to say about him,” one friend said, regarding Cromitie. (Los Angeles Times, May 22)
David Williams’ aunt, Aahkiyaah Cummings, said Williams is a good father.
Laguerre Payen had been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, for which he takes medication. Payen cannot read or write English. When asked if he understood what he was being charged with, he responded, “sort of.” Payen was also unemployed, had no money and was fighting a deportation order. (Daily News, May 24)
This government conspiracy involved the informant targeting the Masjid al-Ikhlas mosque in Newburgh, N.Y., starting a few years ago. According to worshippers there, Hussain focused “most of his attention on younger Black members and visitors.” (New York Times, May 23)
Informant’s deal with the FBI
Hussain, who had been an informant in a number of other federal cases, had moved to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1994. He was arrested in 2002 and charged with trying to help people in Albany get drivers’ licenses. Facing deportation, Hussain instead chose to assist the FBI in exchange for a light sentence of five years probation. (New York Times, May 23)
Worshippers said Hussain would approach young men, mostly Black men, and ask them out to lunch. He also asked the assistant to the imam at the mosque for a meeting.
Before attending services at the Masjid in Newburgh, Hussain went to another one in Wappingers Falls, not far from Newburgh. It was there that he asked an assistant to the imam for a list of worshippers. Most worshippers found Hussain suspicious and stayed clear of him.
Hussain stopped attending services at the Wappingers Fall mosque in June 2008, shortly before he met James Cromitie. It is reported that Cromitie told Hussain that his parents lived in Afghanistan for a time and that he was angry about the U.S. war there. This was around the time their relationship began.
A member of the mosque, Jamil Muhammad, said of Hussain, “It’s easy to influence someone with the dollar. Especially these guys coming out of prison.” (New York Times, May 23)
All of the men existed under dire circumstances forced upon them as oppressed Black men with a prison record before they began being mixed up with the government informant.
Hussain would sit outside the Newburgh mosque in his black Mercedes. He may have appeared as a way for the men to escape their circumstances, a way for David Williams to get his brother the liver transplant, a way for the others to get their heads above water in times of a crisis of the system.
As in the case of the Miami men, the informant did much of the talking. Hussain posed as having contacts with a Pakistani group, Jaish-e-Mohammed (Mohammed’s Army). He had the contacts to get the disabled anti-aircraft weapon and the inert explosives. Hussain even took the four men to get cell phones.
Since the men primarily worked at low paying jobs, transcripts of the investigation will most likely reveal that Hussain bankrolled the entire operation.
That Cromitie expressed anger towards the United States for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is no great crime. The majority of people in the U.S. and around the world oppose the U.S. occupations of those countries.
A New York Times article quoted above even reveals that the imam of the Newburgh mosque questions whether a plot would have developed if Hussain had not been around.
It is evident and will prove even more so over time that if he had not been entrapped, James Cromitie would have most likely gone about his life. So would the other three. But the FBI and the informant preyed upon their anger.
Ultimately, though, it is not their anger that is at fault, but the conditions of U.S. society. Here oppressed people seek and, in particular, these four Black men sought, whatever means might improve their daily existence. Then they are criminalized for it.
This crisis of the system falls upon them harder than on most people. If this is indeed “how every major investigation should be handled,” as Police Commissioner Kelly said, then more such cases of entrapment can be expected. Their righteous indignation towards capitalism and imperialism can itself turn them into pariahs.