Coalition Blasts 9/11 Commission Recommendation to Use More Informants

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(Washington, D.C., 4/2/2015)-The National Coalition for the Protection of Civil Freedoms (NCPCF) is calling for a retraction of one of the recommendations in the Final Report of the 9/11 Commission that the FBI increase the use of informants in fighting the threat of terrorism.  The Defending Dissent Foundation is a member of the NCPCF.

As an organization that protects the civil liberties of individuals in the United States, the NCPCF upholds the values of freedom of speech, religion and association.  In our investigations and work with the families of those affected by US counterterrorism policies, the use of informants has resulted in nothing less than prosecutions based on religion and ideology; both of which are protected under the United States Constitution.  Moreover, the use of informants has specifically and directly impacted the Muslim community by singling out its members to not only monitor “suspicious” behavior, but to also extrapolate the threat of violence due to association with other Muslims and because of conservative and/or radical beliefs.

In May 2014, Project Salam and the NCPCF released a report titled “Inventing Terrorists.”  Based on the DOJ’s list of  “terrorism and terrorism-related convictions,” the report authors Steve Downs, Executive Director of the NCPCF and Kathy Manley, NCPCF Legal Affairs Committee concluded that, in reference to the DOJ numbers:  “The statistical analysis shows that 72.4% of convictions on the DOJ list represent cases of preemptive prosecution that were based on suspicion of the defendant’s perceived ideology and not on his/her criminal activity” (pg. 2).  Not only is this statistic alarming in terms of what it does represent; arrests based on problematic evidence, but also because of what it doesn’t represent; cases that actually posed a threat such as the case of the Tsaernev brothers who perpetrated the Boston Attacks.

The Commission’s Report stated as much with the assertion that, “in none of the five cases did an FBI confidential human source (CHS) provide actionable intelligence to help prevent or respond to a terrorist operation” (pg. 38).   Thus, it is unclear and deeply troubling how an increase in the use of informants would help fulfill the most important goal that the FBI aims to achieve:  protection of the homeland. Of this conclusion, NCPCF’s Executive Director and co-author of the Inventing Terrorists report, Steve Downs stated that, “the FBI 9/11 Review Commission Report is consistent with what NCPCF stated in its May 2014 “Inventing Terrorists” report; that 93% of the cases listed by the US government as terrorism plots involved “preemptive prosecutions” in which the FBI created its own crimes and then solved them.

The Commission’s report focuses on some of the 7% of the cases that represented an actual threat of terrorism and confirms that with one exception (the Zazi case), the FBI had little or nothing to do with the eventual resolution of the case.  Could it be that the FBI was so involved in creating fictitious plots against innocent Americans that it did not have time to analyze the real threats facing the country?

That is what the new documentary film(T)error by David Sutcliffe and Lyric Cabral strongly suggests.  The film follows an actual sting as the government informant attempts to entrap (unsuccessfully) an innocent citizen in a contrived FBI terror plot, while sucking away enormous resources that should have been used to analyze real threats.” The NCPCF recognizes that the threat of terrorism is real, but rejects the scapegoating of Muslims as the primary targets based on trumped up, contrived, and illegitimate evidence for convictions.  The use of informants appears to rely on exactly this and we therefore call on the 9/11 Commission to rescind this recommendation in favor of credible tactics that that actively challenge the terrorist threat.