The FBI Wanted a Propagandist to Become an “Informant”

In a post focusing on the First Amendment problems with Tarek Mehanna’s conviction for serving as an al Qaeda propagandist, Glenn Greenwald posted the speech Mehanna made at sentencing. Most of the attention paid to the speech has focused on the American icons Mehanna used to situate his own extremism, including Superman, Paul Revere, and Malcom X.

I’m far more interested in this bit:

In the name of God the most gracious the most merciful Exactly four years ago this month I was finishing my work shift at a local hospital. As I was walking to my car I was approached by two federal agents. They said that I had a choice to make: I could do things the easy way, or I could do them the hard way. The “easy ” way, as they explained, was that I would become an informant for the government, and if I did so I would never see the inside of a courtroom or a prison cell. As for the hard way, this is it. Here I am, having spent the majority of the four years since then in a solitary cell the size of a small closet, in which I am locked down for 23 hours each day. The FBI and these prosecutors worked very hard-and the government spent millions of tax dollars – to put me in that cell, keep me there, put me on trial, and finally to have me stand here before you today to be sentenced to even more time in a cell.

In April 2008, Mehanna alleged, the FBI approached him to become an informant.

That they asked a young Muslim against whom they had collected evidence of False Statements to become an informant is no big surprise. We know the government has actually used FISA to find evidence of criminality they can use to persuade someone to turn informant.

What’s interesting is that they spent over a year (they had abundant evidence of Mehanna’s false statements by February 25, 2007) working on setting up Mehanna to be an informant rather than preparing to arrest him.

What’s interesting is that they made that kind of effort with a propagandist.

There is precedent, of course. We know the FBI used Hal Turner as an “informant” for five years, in an effort to entice right wingers to violence. We know there have been questions raised about Inspire, the AQAP magazine that Samir Khan edited (after having been watched by the NC FBI but then allowed to leave the country, unlike Mehanna).

But if Mehanna is to be believed, the FBI recruited him in 2008. When Mehanna said no, the FBI prosecuted him for First Amendment activities.

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel @MarkSZaidEsq Some interesting people you might know actually did! @BradMossEsq
1mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @HanniFakhoury Wait...what?
17mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @joshgerstein What the heck kind of useful tweet is THAT? Telling ... what?
28mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV RT @teddysanfran: #JunkBonds4Joe Lieberman by Lieberman for Lieberman in the Lieberman Chair http://t.co/9DrGIOb1nh
57mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @MuskegonCritic But you were willing to send him all the carp he wanted to fertilize his fields?
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @sarahjeong There's a special exception for you on the terrorist watchlist guidelines because of it too.
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @HinaShamsi Also, generally, girls.
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Ut oh. Arms merchants selling to terrorists are also suspected terrorists. Long line of Americans and their friends on that puppy.
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel If corporations are people can we put the whole damn thing on a No Fly list?
3hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Also, HSBC should be on this terrorist watchlist thingie. That one's a no-brainer. JP Morgan Chase too.
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emptywheel RT @srubenfeld: Exclusive: SEC turns over anonymous whistleblower tip - on judge's order - to hedge fund where tip alleged wrongdoing http:…
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emptywheel Certainly terrorist activities 20 years ago still count, per exmple. How about 30 years ago?
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