How Abdulrahman was Entrapped
Abdulrahman was a minor with mental health and substance abuse when he was entrapped. He was arrested only 2 months after he turned 18. According to a Canadian lawyer, Dennis Edney, the undercover law enforcement encouraging Abdulrahman to not be scared suggests that they went too far, as the “FBI overstepped its undercover role.”
While Abdulrahman’s mental illness was at a standstill, his psychiatric and addiction history left him vulnerable to being radicalized and entrapped. He immersed himself in a chat room, unaware he was being targeted by undercover FBI agents posing as an ISIS recruiter. The agents engaged Abdulrahman in radical discussions including the mistreatment of Muslims by the United States. By sending Abdulrahman videos of ISIS leaders and preaching hate towards the United States, the informants had quickly entrapped the vulnerable teenager. To illustrate, the informant stated to Abdulrahman that “they [the United States] are at war with us”, “Akhi [brother] I know more than you’ll believe … Lets just say I know firsthand. They are at war with us,” and “They’ve been bombing us for decades. They need to feel the wrath.” It is through this influence and tactic of pressure that Abdulrahman was manipulated.
Now further radicalized by the informant and ripe for putting his words to action, Abdulrahman was then referred to a New York contact – another informant – who coordinated the shipment of materials sent by Abdulrahman to his location for the bomb plot. Abdulrahman, who does not have an employment history but with the instruction of the informant and a financer within the online chat, purchased around 100 dollars worth of hydrogen peroxide and sent it to the informant.
In response to Abdulrahman stating his thoughts about the severe punishment that may endure on him if an informant was in the chat stating (to ironically the informant and other ISIS supporters) “We would get 45-plus years… This idea is scaring me, akhi [brother],” which the informant replied with “Only fear Allah, no one else.” According to a Canadian lawyer, Dennis Edney, the law enforcement encouraging Abdulrahman to not be scared suggests that they went too far, as the “FBI overstepped its undercover role.” Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute found that at times, in aggressively pursuing terrorism threats before they even materialize, US law enforcement overstepped their role by effectively participating in developing terrorism plots—in at least two cases even offering the defendants money to entice them to participate in the plot.
Entrapment is a defense to criminality on the theory that “Government agents may not originate a criminal design, implant in an innocent person’s mind the disposition to commit a criminal act, and then induce commission of the crime so that the Government may prosecute.”
Abdulrahman “…This idea is scaring me, akhi [brother].”
The undercover law enforcement replied “Only fear Allah [God], no one else.”
Further, on May 12, 2016, Abdulrahman stated to the informant that he had been in rehab which might indicate the introduction of the RCMP’s collaboration with the FBI since they contacted CAMH about Abdulrahman’s medical records four days later. Abdulrahman’s parents proposed to go on a road trip to New York before their son’s meeting with the Canadian psychologist. On May 21, 2016, the FBI arrested Abdulrahman upon arrival in New Jersey, strategically timed so that he would be 18 years old and therefore be an adult in court.
Abdulrahman’s case of entrapment by an informant is consistent with the Human Rights Watch’s analysis stating “Multiple studies have found nearly 50 percent of the federal counterterrorism convictions since September 11, 2001, resulted from informant-based cases. Almost 30 percent were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.”
Per the Human Rights Watch report, the United States has often used prolonged solitary confinement contributing to the defendant to plead guilty, which is what happened in this case. After Abdulrahman’s arrest, he was housed in the Special Housing Unit where he did not receive his medication for about 10 days. Abdulrahman consented to have the case remain sealed so that authorities could catch the other members that were part of the plot. A week before he pleaded guilty, Abdulrahman reported that he had used non-prescribed drugs while at Metropolitan Correctional Center, leading him to be put in isolation where he experienced intermittent panic attacks, hallucinations, and memory loss. Before sentencing, he was mistakenly sent to the general population for a day which led to him having his money stolen from his commissary account. A couple of months later, he was back in the general population and was given drugs by an inmate, leading him to relapse and lose visitation rights for 18 months (which was later repealed by Judge Berman due to the unreasonableness of the punishment and failed complaints within the jail system).
The vigorous attempts by jail officials to handle a person whom the government viewed as an important defendant and the continued secrecy of the case violated Abdulrahman’s right to a public trial. In addition to the representation issues, Abdulrahman pleaded guilty to 7 charges and sentenced to 40 years in prison, just like the Human Rights Watch’s 2014 report indicated the case would turn out as “Judges have imposed excessively lengthy sentences”.
Since the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, DC, the United States government has failed to meet its international legal obligations with respect to its investigations and prosecutions of terrorism suspects, as well as its treatment of terrorism suspects in custody, particularly Muslim youths. In many cases, the FBI have created terrorists out of law abiding, vulnerable young men such as those who struggle with mental health problems into a manufactured threat by conducting sting operations that facilitated or invented the target’s willingness to act.
Any information about Abdulrahman was concealed under a sealing order, including his name, the prison where he was being detained, the name of the prosecutor and the judge assigned to the case. The purpose behind all of this was to have absolute control over the defendant – who had just turned 18 – without any outside interference. This is not unusual treatment for many terrorism cases, irrespective of the age of the prisoner, particularly in entrapment cases.
The case raises serious human rights concerns of discriminatory investigations, targeting vulnerable youths such as Abdulrahman who had no previous history of violence or criminality, until drawn in by law enforcement actively involved in developing the plot, persuading and pressuring the target to participate. This case is one of many that raises the troubling questions about the fairness and effectiveness of the policies, practices, and tactics employed by the FBI, the Justice Department, and the Bureau of Prisons in terrorism cases.
After Abdulrahman’s Arrest: Pre-Trial/Prison Conditions and SHU
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"What makes this story even more disturbing is that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) knowingly participated in this sting with the FBI. They unlawfully obtained Abdulrahman’s medical records that described his mental health vulnerabilities and provided them to the FBI to better manipulate this damaged youth.
This raises serious human rights concerns of discriminatory investigations, targeting vulnerable youths such as Abdulrahman, who had no previous history of violence or criminality, until drawn in by a U.S. government actively involved in developing the plot, persuading and pressuring the target to participate."