US judge condemns FBI while ordering release of man in ‘Newburgh Four’ terror sting

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    A man convicted in 2010 of plotting to blow up New York City synagogues, a Jewish community center and shoot down military planes, was ordered to be released from prison by a judge who said the defendant was part of a group manipulated by the FBI.

    Key points:

    • James Cromtie was convicted of terrorism charges in 2010 and sentenced to 25 years in prison
    • The judge called the men “hapless” petty criminals who were “easily manipulated”
    • “The real lead conspirator was the United States,” said the judge

    James Cromitie was said to be the ringleader of the “Newburgh Four” when arrested in 2009.

    The group was caught up in a sting that the judge described as overzealous FBI agents and an “unsavoury” confidential informant.

    US District Judge Colleen McMahon had already ordered the three other men in the group — Onta Williams, David Williams and Laguerra Payen — to be released last July.

    Cromitie was ordered released by the judge on Friday.

    FBI agents take Cromitie to prison
    James Cromitie, center, is escorted from Federal Plaza, headquarters of the FBI in New York, by federal agents and police, early Thursday, May 21, 2009. Cromitie and three other men were arrested Wednesday night in what the authorities said was a plot to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes at an Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y. (Michael Appleton/The New York Times)

    The judge called the men “hapless” petty criminals who were “easily manipulated” by the government in a sting operation, and said the case was “notorious”.

    The four men were convicted of terrorism charges in 2010 and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

    Friday’s order by the judge asked for Cromitie’s sentence to be cut to time served plus 90 days. It did not reverse the conviction.

    Judge McMahon said that Cromitie was a small-time “grifter” who was broke and unemployed when he was enlisted in the FBI-driven plot and provided fake bombs to plant in exchange for $250,000 in the “jihadist mission.”

    Cromitie enlisted the other three men to serve as lookouts, according to the judge.

    “The three men were recruited so that Cromitie could conspire with someone,” the judge said.

    “The real lead conspirator was the United States. The FBI invented the conspiracy; identified the targets; manufactured the ordnance.”

    Cromitie was recruited by longtime FBI informant Shahed Hussain, who the judge called a “villain.” The judge wrote that Hussain’s role was to infiltrate mosques and spot people who could be potential extremists.

    Hussain offered “heavenly and earthly rewards, including as much as $250,000” to Cromitie “if he would plan and participate in, and find others to participate in, a jihadist ‘mission,'” according to the judge.


    The case of the “Newburgh Four” involves James Cromitie and three others who were convicted in 2010 for a plot to attack New York City synagogues and shoot down military planes. Their release was ordered by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, who criticized the FBI’s reliance on an “unsavory” confidential informant and described the plot as largely fabricated by the FBI itself, targeting individuals who were “hapless” and “easily manipulated” (Reuters). Judge McMahon highlighted the men’s vulnerability and the informant’s role in providing fake bombs for a plot that she deemed would not have been conceived by the defendants on their own. This situation exemplifies concerns regarding the FBI’s involvement in creating domestic terror cells, as the agency’s tactics in this case were seen as leading to a “tragic miscarriage of justice” (Yahoo News).

    This case is significant because it raises questions about the ethical boundaries of sting operations and the potential for entrapment of vulnerable individuals. The judge’s decision to release Cromitie, calling into question the legitimacy of the plot and the FBI’s role in it, serves as a critical examination of post-9/11 counterterrorism practices in the U.S. It underscores the debate over whether such FBI operations are necessary for public safety or if they unjustly target and manipulate individuals, fabricating criminal intent where it may not have originally existed.

    For an image that encapsulates the essence of this post and the significance of the case in relation to the topic of the FBI’s involvement in creating domestic terror cells, consider a visual that subtly depicts the entrapment dynamic—perhaps showing a figure being encircled or entrapped by a larger, shadowy presence, symbolizing the informant’s and the FBI’s role in constructing the terror plot. This image would aim to provoke thought and invite viewers to consider the complexities and ethical considerations of such sting operations.

    For more detailed information on this case, refer to the following:

    The Newburgh Sting
    Were the Newburgh Four Really Out to Blow Up Synagogues?
    Exaggerating the Story of a ‘Reformed Terrorist’ to Advance the FBI’s Disturbing Agenda?

    SOURCEABC News Australia vias Reuters
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