Terror Suspect Caught by Undercover NYPD, on Trial for Spreading ISIS Propaganda
By: Hadassa Kalatizadeh
In a Manhattan courtroom, Abdullah el-Faisal has become the first person to undergo trial using the state laws added following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
As reported by the NY Times, Faisal, 59, who the New York Police Department targeted and set up via undercover agents, committed no said crime in New York. Jurisdiction was only established when NYPD investigators communicated with Faisal from NYC, though he was abroad, thanks to the 9-11 law which made it a felony to financially or materially support terrorists before an attack. Faisal, a Jamaican who previously spent time in a British jail for inciting hatred and soliciting murder, is wanted for being an alleged international promoter of extremism.
New York prosecutors are accusing him in court of spreading Islamic State propaganda and helping a woman who said she wanted to marry an ISIS fighter, though these alleged crimes did not occur inside the state. The NYPD’s Intelligence Bureau caught Faisal on their radar for allegedly promoting jihad and encouraging the murder of Jews, Hindus and Americans. As per the Times, the investigation team went undercover and chatted with Faisal via WhatsApp messages and Skype for nearly a year and eventually traveled to the Middle East to meet him. Former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who first indicted Faisal, said the remote investigation was worth the effort and keeps the city safe. “Our defensive perimeter isn’t just the East River and the Hudson River,” Mr. Vance had said. “This is someone who was inciting jihad who had the possibility of affecting the streets of Manhattan.”
Faisal’s lawyers are now in court, saying he didn’t actually commit any crimes. His defense lawyers maintain that he was a big talker but he never followed through, and much of the planning was initiated by the undercover officers who were baiting him and he just followed along. The detectives had posed as militants and had praised Faisal, calling him “very smart” and referring to the U.S. as the “land of war” to win over his trust, the lawyers told the court. “What the evidence will not show is that Mr. Faisal committed an actual act of terrorism,” said Alex Grosshtern, one of his lawyers, during opening statements in Manhattan State Supreme Court.
Not all New Yorkers agree with the NYPD’s plot to pursue this international figure, and think it should have been left to the federal agents. “There is a question about the appropriate role of local law enforcement in creating what is essentially a shadow C.I.A.,” said Alex S. Vitale, a sociology professor at Brooklyn College. He added that when police go on “international hunts” it uses up “resources that the city could be using to address its own problems.”
The current Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, backed the NY counterterrorism case, saying his office is well prepared to make a strong case, and is “staffed with talented attorneys and analysts who have deep expertise prosecuting complex cases that span borders.” “New Yorkers know the horrors of terrorism, and Manhattan remains a unique target for both global and domestic terror plots,” added Bragg.