Police Informants and Islamic Terror Plots

The Guardian has an article about Craig Monteilh, an informant tasked by the FBI with infiltrating mosques in California:

Monteilh’s story sounds like something out of a pulp thriller. Under the supervision of two FBI agents the muscle-bound fitness instructor created a fictitious French-Syrian altar ego, called Farouk Aziz. In this disguise in 2006 Monteilh started hanging around mosques in Orange County – the long stretch of suburbia south of LA – and pretended to convert to Islam.

…Yet, far from succeeding, Monteilh eventually so unnerved Orange County’s Muslim community that that they got a restraining order against him. In an ironic twist, they also reported Monteilh to the FBI: unaware he was in fact working undercover for the agency.

Monteilh was also given the go-ahead to seduce Muslim women to gather information.

The Guardian also notes some other US cases involving informants:

In the case of the Newburgh Four – where four men were convicted for a fake terror attack on Jewish targets in the Bronx – a confidential informant offered $250,000, a free holiday and a car to one suspect for help with the attack.

In the case of the Fort Dix Five, which involved a fake plan to attack a New Jersey military base, one informant’s criminal past included attempted murder, while another admitted in court at least two of the suspects later jailed for life had not known of any plot.

Infiltrators have also been used in other countries – the most famous case was perhaps in Canada, where evidence gathered by a Muslim named Mubin Shaikh helped to convict the “Toronto 18″. Shaikh was paid well for his work, although he received more money than he expected and his motive appears to have been a genuine desire to disrupt the plans of extremist co-religionists. Journalists raised concerns about entrapment; however, during a trial in 2009 the judge determined that Shaikh was credible and ruled that there had been no entrapment. Shaikh is today billed as a “Canadian National Security Consultant”, and he will be speaking at a panel event in London in April entitled “Muslims in the West – What is the Way Forward?” (as an aside, the event is being organised with the help of Charlie Flowers; Flowers has threatened to assault me if ever he meets me).

There was also a murky case in the UK in November 2006, involving a private self-described “terror-tracking” organisation called the “VIGIL Network”. BBC Newsnight interviewed an an unnamed individual who claimed to have infiltrated Hizb ut-Tahrir in Croydon on behalf of VIGIL; the programme further claimed that there was a plot to firebomb a local synagogue, and VIGIL’s director, Dominic Wightman, claimed in a private email that VIGIL’s “plant” had brought this to the police’s attention. However, despite these dramatic and incredibly serious revelations, no arrests or trials followed – and subsequent unrelated events showed that Wightman was personally dishonest (full story here. Wightman also had links to Flowers, although they later fell out).

A few months ago I made a Freedom of Information request about this, and received the following reply:

Although the incident described took place some five years ago we do not consider this matter to be resolved.  We believe that the disclosure of the information relating to the suspicious items would have a negative effect on the community relationships and would subsequently compromise our law enforcement capabilities – reducing our ability to prevent and detect crime, which is the core principle of UK policing.  Any disclosure that could disrupt the investigative process would not be in the public interest.

Happily, this also means that the police can draw a discreet veil over what may have been a problematic and counter-productive association.