… in truth the verdict is a significant victory for the federal
government, and not just because the conspiracy conviction is likely to put the men away for life, when U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler sentences them in April. It proves that the government can convince a jury to support the idea of pre-emptively prosecuting terrorism cases — a risky strategy that has yielded mixed results in the past.
… Since 9/11, the FBI has begun using legions of Muslim or Arabic informants, many of them illegal immigrants with criminal records, to try to root out radicals before they strike. But the strategy has led to accusations that the informants are themselves hatching the crime, a charge that hung over the entire Fort Dix proceedings….
In the case, the FBI used two informants … Under the direction of the FBI, the informant befriended Mohamed Shnewer and his friends, Dritan, Shain and Eljvir Duka and Serdar Tatar. For 16 months, he recorded conversations with the men, some of which included vague allusions to jihad and an ill-formed plan to attack the Fort Dix military base. The men watched jihadist videos and took trips to a shooting range.
Omar drove one of the defendants to do surveillance of possible targets, and he offered to buy illegal weapons for the group. No attack was carried out, but the defendants were arrested in May 2007 after two of them attempted to buy automatic weapons. For his efforts, Omar was paid $240,000, and the government is likely to help him stay in the United States.
The other informant, Besnik Bakalli, was awaiting deportation when the feds asked him to infiltrate the group as well. On the stand, Bakalli admitted that he once shot a man in a family feud in his native Albania. He was paid $13,000 and is also likely to be staying in the U.S. in exchange for his service.
Informants are common in drug and other criminal cases. But they pose a special challenge in terrorism cases, where the government cannot afford to wait for the plot to play out before making arrests. As a result, the prosecution relies heavily on the informants — who often have powerful incentives to keep the case going. “Obviously, the model worked to achieve a conviction,” says Cipparone, the defense attorney for Shnewer. “But looking at it systemically, I have significant concerns about the payment of informants in this context–informants with these kinds of backgrounds, given this much free reign.”
The defendants, who are being held under highly restricted conditions in Philadelphia, are likely to appeal the verdicts. … Jennifer Marino, the wife of Dritan Duka, was in the courtroom with two of her five children to hear the verdict. “I’m still shocked. I don’t get it,” she said later. “The informants are evil, both of them. They kept pushing them.” The jurors in the case were sequestered and remained anonymous, an unusual arrangement which was ordered by the judge. … –time
$240,000?? Naw, I don’t see any motive for a frame up. Unlike the sinister sketches, the actual pictures of the terrorists look like normal boys … but the officials sure paint a scary picture.
I guess people in NJ are a lot safer now. I guess.