By the now, it’s maddeningly familiar. A scary terrorist plot is announced. Then it’s revealed that the suspects are a hapless bunch of ne’er-do-wells or run-of-the-mill thugs without the slightest connection to any terrorists at all, never mind to Al Qaeda. Finally, the last piece of the puzzle: the entire plot is revealed to have been cooked up by a scummy government agent-provocateur.
I’ve seen this movie before.
In this case, the alleged perps — Onta Williams, James Cromitie, David Williams, and Laguerre Payen — were losers, ex-cons, drug addicts. Al Qaeda they’re not. Without the assistance of the agent who entrapped them, they would never have dreamed of committing political violence, nor would they have had the slightest idea about where to acquire plastic explosives or a Stinger missile. That didn’t stop prosecutors from acting as if they’d captured Osama bin Laden himself. Noted the Los Angeles Times:
Prosecutors called it the latest in a string of homegrown terrorism plots hatched after Sept. 11.
“It’s hard to envision a more chilling plot,” Assistant U.S. Atty. Eric Snyder said in court Thursday. He described all four suspects as “eager to bring death to Jews.”
Actually, it’s hard to imagine a stupider, less competent, and less important plot. The four losers were ensnared by a creepy FBI agent who hung around the mosque in upstate New York until he found what he was looking for. Here’s the New York Times account:
Salahuddin Mustafa Muhammad, the imam at the mosque where the authorities say the confidential informant first encountered the men, said none of the men were active in the mosque. …
Mr. Cromitie was there last June, and he met a stranger.
He had no way of knowing that the stranger’s path to the mosque began in 2002, when he was arrested on federal charges of identity theft. He was sentenced to five years’ probation, and became a confidential informant for the F.B.I. He began showing up at the mosque in Newburgh around 2007, Mr. Muhammad said.
The stranger’s behavior aroused the imam’s suspicions. He invited other worshipers to meals, and spoke of violence and jihad, so the imam said he steered clear of him.
“There was just something fishy about him,” Mr. Muhammad said. Members “believed he was a government agent.”