CAIRO - The arrest of a Moroccan US resident in a fake FBI operation to carry out a suicide bombing at the Capitol Hill is sparking concerns among Muslims who accused the federal investigators of provoking suspects and even suggesting possible targets or tactics.
It's controlled from beginning to end by FBI. But you can't create a terrorism case and then say you stopped it, Ashraf Nubani, a Muslim lawyer in Washington who has defended terrorism suspects in similar cases in the past, told The Washington Post on Friday, February 17.
Had the FBI not been involved, through their manipulation or informants, would the same thing have happened? Would there be attempted violence? They have their sights on certain people, the ones who talk big talk.
Amine El Khalifi, a 29-year-old Moroccan man, was arrested on Friday in an alleged plot to carry out a suicide bombing at the US Capitol.
The FBI said that Khalifi was carrying what he believed to be a loaded automatic weapon and a suicide vest ready for detonation.
Making an initial court appearance in US District Court in Alexandria, he was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against federal property. He faces life in prison if convicted.
Khalifi allegedly believed he was working with al-Qaeda, said Neil H. MacBride, US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Khalifi devised the plot, the targets and the methods on his own.
With no previous criminal record or violence inclinations, it was unclear how he first came to the attention of the law enforcement officers.
After expressing sentiment that the war on terrorism' was a war on Muslims', Khalifi was introduced on Dec. 1, 2011, to a man called Yusuf, who was an undercover law enforcement officer.
According to the criminal complaint, during meetings with the undercover officer, Khalifi indicated his desire to conduct an operation in which he could carry out a shooting rampage in a restaurant or a synagogue, neither of which were identified in court documents.
On Jan. 15, the complain claimed that Khalifi told undercover agents that he had modified his plans for the attack and wanted to conduct a suicide bombing at the Capitol.
The Muslim concerns were reiterated by some critics who accused federal investigators of provoking suspects or even suggesting possible targets or tactics.
You want to be very sure that the narrative is not substantially provided by the government, Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, who studies terrorism sting operations, told Washington Post.
There's a lot of gray area in these cases.
Legal experts say the FBI sometimes walks a fine line in such cases.
Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the Justice Department, defended the FBI case.
The affidavit in the Khalifi case makes clear that at each step, it was the defendant who proposed the alleged plot and sought help in obtaining the weapons to carry it out, Boyd said.
Whenever we conduct an undercover operation of this sort, we fully anticipate that allegations of entrapment will be raised as a defense, and we conduct the investigation accordingly to assure that entrapment does not occur, he added.
The fake FBI operations have stirred uproar inside the United States over entrapping young people, who posed no real threat to the US security.
In the past year, federal agents have arrested at least 20 people in the United States on terrorism-related charges, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
A Nicaraguan-born American was arrested in December 2010 in a fake FBI operation to attack a US military recruitment center in Maryland.
The arrest followed a November 2010 arrest of a Somali-born American in a similar FBI sting to attack a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Oregon.
The uproar escalated after media revelations that the FBI implanted a non-Muslim informant in a California mosque to seek building a terrorism case.