That bogus “terrorist plot” in New York has fallen from the headlines, but its pernicious impact lingers on. My earlier piece on this story, written late last week, drew a lot of comments, and a number of people contacted me about the story, too.

Here are a few updates.

First, a sensible AP story puts it in perspective, emphasizing the role of the FBI’s agent-provocateur who entrapped the four men now charged in the “chilling” terrorism plot:

What happens to these cases after the media spotlight fades and the noise dies down? And are the snitches involved reliable?

“Most of these guys don’t get tried,” said security analyst Bruce Schneier. “These are not criminal masterminds, they’re idiots. There’s huge fanfares at the arrest, and then it dies off.”

The New York men arrested last week were ex-convicts down on their luck. In federal court, one admitted that he’d recently gotten stoned. “I smoke it regularly,” he told the judge. Not to worry, he added, “I understand everything you are saying.” …

However, court statistics show that most domestic terrorism cases never make it to trial.

And why don’t then make it to trial? Because nearly every one of them is utterly bogus.

A reader of The Dreyfuss Report forwarded an interesting piece that reveals some information about the FBI’s agent-provocateur in the New York case, apparently a Pakistani immigrant who’d been busted for felony fraud and then recruited by the FBI to go around searching for domestic “terrorists.” He was involved in a case in upstate New York several years ago, helping to frame an Iraqi Kurd named Yassin Aref in an unrelated “terrorism” plot:

When illegal eavesdropping failed to turn up any improper activity on Yassin’s part, the FBI engaged a Pakistani immigrant named Malik, who already had been convicted of 80 to 100 felonies in a scheme to market fraudulent drivers licenses, and essentially told him that the government would make all of his legal troubles go away (and cancel his scheduled deportation) if he could entrap Yassin into terrorist activity by means of a concocted “sting.”

According to the fictitious plot, the government set Malik up as a supposed secret arms merchant who sold missiles to terrorist groups, particularly JEM (Jaish-e-Mohammed), which sought to liberate Muslim Kashmir from India. Malik offered to loan money to a member of Yassin’s mosque if Yassin would witness the transactions for free in the Islamic tradition (as a notary does, under American law)–a perfectly legal and even praiseworthy act by Yassin, under normal circumstances.

For a proper “sting,” Malik was to tell Yassin that the money for the loan came from the sale of missiles to JEM, which intended to use the missiles in an assassination in New York City. If Yassin witnessed the loan transactions with the intent to help Malik conceal the illegal source of the money for the loan, he would be guilty of several terrorist-related crimes.

But Malik did not give Yassin the necessary information for him to understand the illegality of the plot, the loan, or the witnessing. As a result, the sting never developed; instead, it became a simple frame-up by the government.

You can read the whole piece, by one of Aref’s attorneys, here.

The New York Post has more details on the agent-provocateur’s role in the earlier case, too:

The FBI informant in the Bronx synagogue terror plot helped convict two Albany Muslims on terror-related money-laundering charges three years ago.

Shahed Hussain, 52, an upstate motel owner, turned informant in 2002 after being busted on fraud charges while working as a translator for the Department of Motor Vehicles. The man, who had helped immigrants cheat on driver’s tests, began cooperating with the FBI in a bid to win leniency in court and avoid deportation to Pakistan.

The informant then posed as an arms buyer who needed to launder money from the sale of a shoulder-launched missile to be used to kill a Pakistani envoy. His act duped Albany pizzeria owner Mohammed Hossain into laundering cash for him, while Yassin Aref, an Albany imam, acted as a witness.

Hossain and Aref were convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Several of the informant’s tenants told The Post that he claims to be a “spy” for the FBI, and that he “blew out of here Tuesday night.” One tenant said the cooperator was on the telephone “a few weeks back . . . telling somebody about buying guns.”

Aref’s lawyer, Terence Kindlon, called the informant “a liar and a sneak and a trickster.”

Hossain’s lawyer, Kevin Luibrand, said the informant “completely lied” to his FBI handlers about information in the Albany case.

You can read more about the new case at the New York Times blog, which also has some interesting links.

The Times also has detailed profiles of the four men accused in the latest case, all petty criminals with only the most tenuous connection to Islam and no connection whatsoever to any terrorist groups.