Here we go again: A low-life Muslim convert is arrested on charges of plotting terrorism, as described in a dramatic press conference starring top officials, and only by listening very carefully or by reading the criminal complaint very carefully do we discern that the low-life Muslim convert had the assistance of a government “confidential informant,” not further identified.
I refer to the case of one Jose Pimentel, arrested over the weekend in New York City, who was said to have lived in Schenectady for five years before returning to New York in 2009.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and District Attorney Cyrus Vance laid on the press-conference fireworks. They displayed a pipe bomb, complete with wire and clock, that you had to listen carefully to understand was not an actual bomb constructed by Pimentel and/or the “confidential informant” but rather a “model” or a “mockup,” meaning something constructed by the police for the benefit of news cameras, which would be like dramatizing a cocaine arrest by displaying a pile of white sugar on a table.
They showed a video of a passenger car being blown to smithereens, which again you had to listen carefully to understand was not a car blown up by Pimentel or even by a bomb made by Pimentel but rather a car blown up by a bomb similar to the one Pimentel and/or the “confidential informant” made — and how’s that for going the extra mile for the sake of public relations? Making a bomb and blowing up an actual car just to have a sexy video to show at a press conference.
I’m sorry to be cynical about this, but we’ve been through it so many times before.
Was Pimentel a real terrorist, actually striving to make explosives with which to destroy police cars and murder soldiers returning from Afghanistan? I have no idea.
I learn in the criminal complaint, submitted by a police detective, of secret recordings made of “multiple conversations between the CI [confidential informant] and the defendant … in which the defendant clearly expressed his interest in building small bombs and targeting government establishments, police buildings and banks.”
But did the defendant initiate those conversations or did the “confidential informant”? And I keep putting “confidential informant” in quotation marks because in the past any person so identified has been more an agent provocateur, making things happen, than an informant, passively reporting on what is happening anyway.
The FBI, or in this case the city police, recruit some criminal character with Muslim credentials and offer him leniency for his own crimes if he can induce their target du jour to commit some terror-related crime. It’s a bargain-basement way to give the impression they’re foiling terrorists. They create a crime and then, in the nick of time, solve it. This time, they said, it was just one hour — pant, pant — before the bomb would have been operational. A bomb that, in effect, they were building themselves.
How did this work? According to the complaint, Pimentel and the informant studied up on bomb-making through an online magazine from al Qaeda, then went together to a Home Depot in the Bronx to buy the fixin’s — a clock, work gloves and some Christmas lights. Then they repaired to the informant’s Harlem apartment, where a surveillance video camera had conveniently been installed, to do the assembling. There the hapless Pimentel,
following instructions from the al Qaeda magazine, set himself to “scraping the heads from matches and collecting the incendiary powder in a bowl.”
On Saturday afternoon they were busy drilling holes in elbow pipes to accommodate timing wires when the cops burst in, Hollywood-style, and in the nick of time put a halt to their own operation.
Just one hour away from operational! A close call!
Well, I will keep an open mind, as I have kept an open mind on other similar take-downs.
Maybe Jose Pimentel was a genuine holy-warrior, and maybe he was just another sucker, another petty criminal, Muslim convert with a militant mouth who made himself an easy target.
He is a dark-skinned native of the Dominican Republic who was arrested in Schenectady in 2005 on charges of stealing credit card information at a Circuit City store where he worked and using it to buy a computer. New York City police identified him as having a felony conviction.
The Associated Press reported yesterday that the FBI didn’t take the case themselves because they regarded Pimentel as “mentally unstable and incapable of pulling off the alleged plot,” and that’s why, uncharacteristically, the case was left to the locals.
Pimentel “didn’t have the predisposition or the ability to do anything on his own,” the AP quoted an unidentified law enforcement official as saying.
Which tells you something, since the FBI famously does not have very high standards for its faux-terrorism stings.
In Schenectady, Pimentel lived in a moderate-to-dumpy two-family of the kind that is standard in Mont Pleasant. (No one answered the door when I knocked yesterday. A neighbor said the people in that house had not been any trouble but sat on their porch peacefully drinking beer, Schenectady-style.)
Bloomberg & Co. say Pimentel went by the Muslim moniker Muhammad Yusef or Yusuf and maintained a blog called trueislam1.com, and maybe he did. The postings on that blog are full of praise for Allah and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and for the most part are too tedious to read.
The most interesting statements I could find were these, referring to jihad, or holy war:
“Unfortunately, in these times Muslims have strayed far away from their religion, many of them are even speaking out against Jihad and against those that participate in it.”
And, “Unfortunately because of this misunderstanding by the masses of the people, those who do participate in Jihad are labeled as extremist and terrorist, this is due to the propaganda of the western governments and their media, but it also has to do with the ignorance that is ravishing the Muslims.”
These were signed by “Yusuf.”