After the horrific 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington in 2001, authorities were pushed to investigate Islamist organizations worldwide. In the years since the incident, hundreds of Muslims have been unfairly targeted and labeled terrorists by the FBI according to a new report.
The Human Rights Watch, in conjunction with Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute, released a report that was critical of U.S. terrorism prosecutions and blasted the FBI’s method of investigations. Titled The Illusion Of Justice: Human Rights Abuses In US Terrorism Prosecutions, the report makes scathing claims that the FBI has abused its power in its counterterrorism efforts.
From the Human Rights Watch report:
This report examines 27 such cases—from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement—and documents the significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement. Since the September 11 attacks, more than 500 individuals have been prosecuted in US federal courts for terrorism or related offenses—40 cases per year on average.
Many prosecutions have properly targeted individuals engaged in planning or financing terror attacks. But many others have targeted individuals who do not appear to have been involved in terrorist plotting or financing at the time the government began to investigate them.
Indeed, in some cases the Federal Bureau of Investigation may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by conducting sting operations that facilitated or invented the target’s willingness to act. According to multiple studies, nearly 50 percent of the more than 500 federal counterterrorism convictions resulted from informant-based cases; almost 30 percent of those cases were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot. In the case of the “Newburgh Four,” for example, a judge said the government “came up with the crime, provided the means, and removed all relevant obstacles,” and had, in the process, made a terrorist out of a man “whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in scope.”
The report is lengthy and while the focus on the 27 cases, and the combined 77 defendants, is played up, the group does acknowledge that the threat of terrorism is real. The report recommends that the FBI should not investigate potential threats based on religion, political affiliation and other related actions protected by the right to freedom of expression.
The FBI has hit back at the findings of the report, stating that the organization does not target individuals on the basis that the Human Rights Watch report claims.
Photo: Human Rights Watch