On Wednesday 28th September, a US citizen was apprehended and charged with plotting an attack against the Pentagon and US Capitol building in Washington using explosive remote-controlled aircrafts. Similarly, he was charged with providing material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organisation, namely Al-Qaeda. Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26 year-old physics graduate was arrested in Massachusetts as part of an intensive sting operation carried out by the FBI who posed as al-Qaeda sympathisers.He had allegedly requested the undercover agents to get him materials including explosives, grenades and six AK-47s which would be used to ‘launch a jihad against Americans in the US and abroad’. According to an affidavit, Ferdaus had apparently created IED’s disguised as mobile phones to be used against American troops overseas and was reportedly pleased when two undercover agents falsely said that the mobile phone IED’s had killed three U.S soldiers.
Ferdaus’ case however is not unique as this is not the first sting operation in the US which has resulted in an individual charged with terrorism. According to a study carried out by Ohio University
, 40% of all the terrorism cases relating to the US since 2001 were instigated or facilitated by undercover FBI agents. For example in September 2009, a Jordanian citizen, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, was arrested and charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction on a skyscraper in downtown Dallas. Like Ferdaus, he too was under surveillance by the FBI who disguised themselves as being part of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell. However, according to the affidavit and US attorney Carmen Ortiz, Ferdaus was allegedly solely responsible for concocting the planned attacks unlike other sting operations which have been rumoured to frame individuals.
In Ferdaus’ case, the accusation is primarily of a terrorist nature. However, a phenomenon within the American justice system has been highlighted recently by another study
conducted by Mother Jones in conjunction with the University of California-Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program. Afterreviewing 508 terrorism-related cases in the US, they found that 53% of the cases did not involve any terrorism charges. These cases were merely associated with terrorism because of the offender’s identity rather than the actual nature of the crime. The three New Jersey Arab grocers are an example of this as they were caught with stolen Kelloggs Cornflakes and yet were somehow linked to terrorism and the infamous example of Aafia Siddiqui, who was charged with attempted murder and sentenced to 86 years as a result.