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“It literally boils down into: ‘If you cannot find terrorists within the Muslim community, make terrorists. Create the terrorists.’”
Yassir Fazaga, a Southern California imam targeted by the FBI, tells Al Jazeera.
Shady characters recruited by the FBI to spy on Muslims in the United States are revealed in a new documentary, Informants, by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, which premiered yesterday, Sunday, 20 July 2014. The film explores the methods and motivations of FBI informants, who are on the front line of the bureau’s counterterrorism activities.
With extraordinary access to FBI agents and their informants, as well as undercover recordings, Al Jazeera’s documentary raises questions about whether the men targeted in sting operations would have acted at all were it not for the paid informants working on the cases.
“It literally boils down into, if you cannot find terrorists within the Muslim community, make terrorists. Create the terrorists,” Yassir Fazaga, a Southern California imam targeted by the FBI, tells Al Jazeera.
Following the 9/11 attacks, the FBI set about to recruit a network of more than 15,000 informants. As Informants shows, many of these informants were sent in to Muslim communities with incentives: find threats and you’ll get paid. But did they find real threats, or just paydays?
The informants profiled by Al Jazeera admit they spied for money, not for country.
“It had nothing to do with ‘my country, ’tis of thee.’ It had to do with, I wanted to be in on the big game and to be paid top dollar for it,” says FBI informant Craig Monteilh.
Another FBI informant, Elie Assaad, tells Al Jazeera how he was often sent in to clean up the botched work of other informants. “I never lost a case all these years, even sometimes when they have already ongoing cases where they feel they’re going to lose it and they bring me to jump in and put it back on track,” Assaad says.
Peter Ahearn, a retired FBI special agent, tells Al Jazeera that handling informants can be difficult. “They’ll lie to you. They’ll misstate. They’ll misrepresent,” he says. But Ahearn says these informants are necessary for the FBI’s counterterrorism mission. There’s a saying in the bureau: “To catch the devil, you have to go to hell.”
In the documentary, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit:
- Broadcasts never-before-seen video from FBI undercover sting operations
- Interviews three former FBI informants and reveals new information about the crimes they committed while working for the government
- Exposes how the FBI targeted one young man for recruitment as an informant
- Features an exclusive interview with a man convicted on terrorism charges in one of the highest-profile federal cases of the last decade
- Reveals the identity of one of the FBI’s secret informants
Al Jazeera investigative reporter Trevor Aaronson, who has reported on the FBI for years, guides viewers through this shadowy world of informants and controversial counterterrorism operations.