sunnuntai 17. marraskuuta 2019

How the FBI's Network of Informants Actually Created Most of the Terrorist Plots "Foiled" in the US Since 9/11

The FBI has built a massive network of spies to prevent another domestic attack. But are they busting terrorist plots—or leading them?

How the FBI's Network of Informants Actually Created Most of the Terrorist Plots "Foiled" in the US Since 9/11

UPDATE: On September 28, Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old graduate of Northeastern University, was arrested and charged with providing resources to a foreign terrorist organization and attempting to destroy national defense premises. Ferdaus, according to the FBI, planned to blow up both the Pentagon and Capitol Building with a "large remote controlled aircraft filled with C-4 plastic explosives."
The case was part of a nearly ten-month investigation led by the FBI. Not surprisingly, Ferdaus' case fits a pattern detailed by Trevor Aaronson in his article below: the FBI provided Ferdaus with the explosives and materials needed to pull off the plot. In this case, two undercover FBI employees, who Ferdaus believed were al Qaeda members, gave Ferdaus $7,500 to purchase an F-86 Sabre model airplane that Ferdaus hoped to fill with explosives. Right before his arrest, the FBI employees gave Ferdaus, who lived at home with his parents, the explosives he requested to pull off his attack. And just how did the FBI come to meet Ferdaus? An informant with a criminal record introduced Ferdaus to the supposed al Qaeda members.
To learn more about how the FBI uses informants to bust, and sometimes lead, terrorist plots, read Aaronson's article below.
James Cromitie [8] was a man of bluster and bigotry. He made up wild stories about his supposed exploits, like the one about firing gas bombs into police precincts using a flare gun, and he ranted about Jews. "The worst brother in the whole Islamic world is better than 10 billion Yahudi," he once said [9].
A 45-year-old Walmart stocker who'd adopted the name Abdul Rahman after converting to Islam during a prison stint for selling cocaine, Cromitie had lots of worries—convincing his wife he wasn't sleeping around, keeping up with the rent, finding a decent job despite his felony record. But he dreamed of making his mark. He confided as much in a middle-aged Pakistani he knew as Maqsood.
"I'm gonna run into something real big [10]," he'd say. "I just feel it, I'm telling you. I feel it."
Maqsood and Cromitie had met at a mosque in Newburgh, a struggling former Air Force town about an hour north of New York City. They struck up a friendship, talking for hours about the world's problems and how the Jews were to blame.
It was all talk until November 2008, when Maqsood pressed his new friend.
"Do you think you are a better recruiter or a better action man?" Maqsood asked [11].
"I'm both," Cromitie bragged.
"My people would be very happy to know that, brother. Honestly."
"Who's your people?" Cromitie asked.
Maqsood said he was an agent for the Pakistani terror group, tasked with assembling a team to wage jihad in the United States. He asked Cromitie what he would attack if he had the means. A bridge, Cromitie said.
"But bridges are too hard to be hit," Maqsood pleaded, "because they're made of steel."
"Of course they're made of steel," Cromitie replied. "But the same way they can be put up, they can be brought down."
Maqsood coaxed Cromitie toward a more realistic plan. The Mumbai attacks were all over the news, and he pointed out how those gunmen targeted hotels, cafés, and a Jewish community center.
"With your intelligence, I know you can manipulate someone," Cromitie told his friend. "But not me, because I'm intelligent." The pair settled on a plot to bomb synagogues in the Bronx, and then fire Stinger missiles at airplanes taking off from Stewart International Airport in the southern Hudson Valley. Maqsood would provide all the explosives and weapons, even the vehicles. "We have two missiles, okay?" he offered [12]. "Two Stingers, rocket missiles."
Maqsood was an undercover operative; that much was true. But not for Jaish-e-Mohammad. His real name was Shahed Hussain [13], and he was a paid informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Ever since 9/11, counter terrorism has been the FBI's No. 1 priority, consuming the lion's share of its budget—$3.3 billion, compared to $2.6 billion for organized crime—and much of the attention of field agents and a massive, nationwide network of informants. After years of emphasizing informant recruiting as a key task for its agents, the bureau now maintains a roster of 15,000 spies—many of them tasked, as Hussain was, with infiltrating Muslim communities in the United States. In addition, for every informant officially listed in the bureau's records, there are as many as three unofficial ones, according to one former high-level FBI official, known in bureau parlance as "hip pockets."
The informants could be doctors, clerks, imams. Some might not even consider themselves informants. But the FBI regularly taps all of them as part of a domestic intelligence apparatus whose only historical peer might be COINTELPRO [14], the program the bureau ran from the '50s to the '70s to discredit and marginalize organizations ranging from the Ku Klux Klan to civil-rights and protest groups.
Throughout the FBI’s history, informant numbers have been closely guarded secrets. Periodically, however, the bureau has released those figures. A Senate oversight committee in 1975 found the FBI had 1,500 informant [15]s [15]. In 1980, officials disclosed there were 2,800 [16]. Six years later, following the FBI’s push into drugs and organized crime, the number of bureau informants ballooned to 6,000, the Los Angeles Times reported [16] in 1986. And according to the FBI, the number grew significantly after 9/11. In its fiscal year 2008 budget authorization request [17], the FBI disclosed that it it had been been working under a November 2004 presidential directive demanding an increase [18] in "human source development and management," and that it needed $12.7 million [19] for a program to keep tabs on its spy network and create software to track and manage informants.
The bureau's strategy has changed significantly from the days when officials feared another coordinated, internationally financed attack from an Al Qaeda sleeper cell. Today, counterterrorism experts believe groups like Al Qaeda, battered by the war in Afghanistan and the efforts of the global intelligence community, have shifted to a franchise model, using the internet to encourage sympathizers to carry out attacks in their name. The main domestic threat, as the FBI sees it, is a lone wolf.
The bureau's answer has been a strategy known variously as "preemption," "prevention," and "disruption"—identifying and neutralizing potential lone wolves before they move toward action. To that end, FBI agents and informants target not just active jihadists, but tens of thousands of law-abiding people, seeking to identify those disgruntled few who might participate in a plot given the means and the opportunity. And then, in case after case, the government provides the plot, the means, and the opportunity.
Here's how it works: Informants report to their handlers on people who have, say, made statements sympathizing with terrorists. Those names are then cross-referenced with existing intelligence data, such as immigration and criminal records. FBI agents may then assign an undercover operative to approach the target by posing as a radical. Sometimes the operative will propose a plot, provide explosives, even lead the target in a fake oath to Al Qaeda. Once enough incriminating information has been gathered, there's an arrest—and a press conference [20] announcing another foiled plot.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, it's because such sting operations are a fixture in the headlines. Remember the Washington Metro [21] bombing plot? The New York subway [22] plot? The guys who planned to blow up the Sears Tower [23]? The teenager seeking to bomb a Portland Christmas tree [24] lighting? Each of those plots, and dozens more across the nation, was led by an FBI asset.
Over the past year, Mother Jones and the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkeley have examined prosecutions of 508 defendants in terrorism-related cases, as defined by the Department of Justice. Our investigation found:
  • Nearly half the prosecutions involved the use of informants, many of them incentivized by money (operatives can be paid as much as $100,000 per assignment) or the need to work off criminal or immigration violations. (For more on the details of those 508 cases, see our charts page [6] and searchable database [25].)
  • Sting operations resulted in prosecutions against 158 defendants. Of that total, 49 defendants participated in plots led by an agent provocateur—an FBI operative instigating terrorist action.
  • With three exceptions, all of the high-profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were actually FBI stings. (The exceptions are Najibullah Zazi, who came close to bombing [26] the New York City subway system in September 2009; Hesham Mohamed Hadayet [27], an Egyptian who opened fire on the El-Al ticket counter at the Los Angeles airport; and failed Times Square bomberFaisal Shahzad [28].)
  • In many sting cases, key encounters between the informant and the target were not recorded—making it hard for defendants claiming entrapment to prove their case.
  • Terrorism-related charges are so difficult to beat in court, even when the evidence is thin, that defendants often don't risk a trial.

"The problem with the cases we're talking about is that defendants would not have done anything if not kicked in the ass by government agents," says Martin Stolar, a lawyer who represented a man caught in a 2004 sting involving New York's Herald Square [22] subway station. "They're creating crimes to solve crimes so they can claim a victory in the war on terror." In the FBI's defense, supporters argue that the bureau will only pursue a case when the target clearly is willing to participate in violent action. "If you're doing a sting right, you're offering the target multiple chances to back out," says Peter Ahearn, a retired FBI special agent who directed the Western New York Joint Terrorism Task Force and oversaw the investigation of the Lackawanna Six [29], an alleged terror cell near Buffalo, New York. "Real people don't say, 'Yeah, let's go bomb that place.' Real people call the cops."
Even so, Ahearn concedes that the uptick in successful terrorism stings might not be evidence of a growing threat so much as a greater focus by the FBI. "If you concentrate more people on a problem," Ahearn says, "you'll find more problems." Today, the FBI follows up on literally every single call, email, or other terrorism-related tip it receives for fear of missing a clue.
And the emphasis is unlikely to shift anytime soon. Sting operations have "proven to be an essential law enforcement tool in uncovering and preventing potential terror attacks," said Attorney General Eric Holder in a December 2010 speech [45] to Muslim lawyers and civil rights activists. President Obama's Department of Justice has announced sting-related prosecutions at an even faster clip than the Bush administration, with 44 new cases since January 2009. With the war on terror an open-ended and nebulous conflict, the FBI doesn't have an exit strategy.
Located deep in a wooded area on a Marine Corps base west of Interstate 95—a setting familiar from Silence of the Lambs—is the sandstone fortress of the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. This building, erected under J. Edgar Hoover, is where to this day every FBI special agent is trained.
J. Stephen Tidwell graduated from the academy in 1981 and over the years rose to executive assistant director, one of the 10 highest positions in the FBI; in 2008, he coauthored the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, or DIOG [46] (PDF), the manual for what agents and informants can and cannot do.
A former Texas cop, Tidwell is a barrel-chested man with close-cropped salt-and-pepper hair. He's led some of the FBI's highest-profile investigations, including the DC sniper case and the probe of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.
On a cloudy spring afternoon, Tidwell, dressed in khakis and a blue sweater, drove me in his black Ford F-350 through Hogan's Alley [47]—a 10-acre Potemkin village with houses, bars, stores, and a hotel. Agents learning the craft role-play stings, busts, and bank robberies here, and inside jokes and pop-culture references litter the place (which itself gets its name from a 19th-century comic strip). At one end of the town is the Biograph Theater, named for the Chicago movie house where FBI agents gunned down John Dillinger [48] in 1934. ("See," Tidwell says. "The FBI has a sense of humor.")
Inside the academy, a more somber tone prevails. Plaques everywhere honor agents who have been killed on the job. Tidwell takes me to one that commemorates John O'Neill, who became chief of the bureau's then-tiny counterterrorism section in 1995. For years before retiring from the FBI, O'Neill warned [49] of Al Qaeda's increasing threat, to no avail. In late August 2001, he left the bureau to take a job as head of security for the World Trade Center, where he died 19 days later at the hands of the enemy he'd told the FBI it should fear. The agents he had trained would end up reshaping the bureau's counterterrorism operations.
Before 9/11, FBI agents considered chasing terrorists an undesirable career path, and their training did not distinguish between Islamic terror tactics and those employed by groups like the Irish Republican Army. "A bombing case is a bombing case," Dale Watson, who was the FBI's counterterrorism chief on 9/11, said in a December 2004 deposition. The FBI also did not train agents in Arabic or require most of them to learn about radical Islam. "I don't necessarily think you have to know everything about the Ku Klux Klan to investigate a church bombing," Watson said. The FBI had only one Arabic speaker [50] in New York City and fewer than 10 nationwide.
But shortly after 9/11, President George W. Bush called FBI Director Robert Mueller to Camp David. His message: never again. And so Mueller committed to turn the FBI into a counterintelligence organization rivaling Britain's MI5 in its capacity for surveillance and clandestine activity. Federal law enforcement went from a focus on fighting crime to preventing crime; instead of accountants and lawyers cracking crime syndicates, the bureau would focus on Jack Bauer-style operators disrupting terror groups.
To help run the counterterrorism section, Mueller drafted Arthur Cummings, a former Navy SEAL who'd investigated the first World Trade Center bombing. Cummings pressed agents to focus not only on their immediate target, but also on the extended web of people linked to the target. "We're looking for the sympathizer who wants to become an operator, and we want to catch them when they step over that line to operator," Cummings says. "Sometimes, that step takes 10 years. Other times, it takes 10 minutes." The FBI's goal is to create a hostile environment for terrorist recruiters and operators—by raising the risk of even the smallest step toward violent action. It's a form of deterrence, an adaptation of the "broken windows" theory used to fight urban crime. Advocates insist it has been effective, noting that there hasn't been a successful large-scale attack against the United States since 9/11. But what can't be answered—as many former and current FBI agents acknowledge—is how many of the bureau's targets would have taken the step over the line at all, were it not for an informant.
So how did the FBI build its informant network? It began by asking where US Muslims lived. Four years after 9/11, the bureau brought in a CIA expert on intelligence-gathering methods named Phil Mudd [51]. His tool of choice was a data-mining system using commercially available information, as well as government data such as immigration records, to pinpoint the demographics of specific ethnic and religious communities—say, Iranians in Beverly Hills or Pakistanis in the DC suburbs.
The FBI officially denies that the program, known as Domain Management, works this way—its purpose, the bureau says, is simply to help allocate resources according to threats. But FBI agents told me that with counterterrorism as the bureau's top priority, agents often look for those threats in Muslim communities—and Domain Management allows them to quickly understand those communities' makeup. One high-ranking former FBI official jokingly referred to it as "Battlefield Management."
Some FBI veterans criticized the program as unproductive and intrusive—one told Mudd during a high-level meeting that he'd pushed the bureau to "the dark side." That tension has its roots in the stark difference between the FBI and the CIA: While the latter is free to operate internationally without regard to constitutional rights, the FBI must respect those rights in domestic investigations, and Mudd's critics saw the idea of targeting Americans based on their ethnicity and religion as a step too far.
Nonetheless, Domain Management quickly became the foundation for the FBI's counterterrorism dragnet. Using the demographic data, field agents were directed to target specific communities to recruit informants. Some agents were assigned to the task full time. And across the bureau, agents' annual performance evaluations are now based in part on their recruiting efforts.
People cooperate with law enforcement for fairly simple reasons: ego, patriotism, money, or coercion. The FBI's recruitment has relied heavily on the latter. One tried-and-true method is to flip someone facing criminal charges. But since 9/11 the FBI has also relied heavily on Immigration and Customs Enforcement [42], with which it has worked closely as part of increased interagency coordination. A typical scenario will play out like this: An FBI agent trying to get someone to cooperate will look for evidence that the person has immigration troubles. If they do, he can ask ICE to begin or expedite deportation proceedings. If the immigrant then chooses to cooperate, the FBI will tell the court that he is a valuable asset, averting deportation.
Sometimes, the target of this kind of push is the one person in a mosque who will know everyone's business—the imam. Two Islamic religious leaders, Foad Farahi[52] in Miami and Sheikh Tarek Saleh in New York City, are currently fighting deportation proceedings that, they claim, began after they refused to become FBI assets. The Muslim American Society Immigrant Justice Center has filed similar complaints on behalf of seven other Muslims with the Department of Homeland Security.
Once someone has signed on as an informant, the first assignment is often a fishing expedition. Informants have said in court testimony that FBI handlers have tasked them with infiltrating mosques without a specific target or "predicate"—the term of art for the reason why someone is investigated. They were, they say, directed to surveil law-abiding Americans with no indication of criminal intent.
"The FBI is now telling agents they can go into houses of worship without probable cause," says Farhana Khera, executive director of the San Francisco-based civil rights group Muslim Advocates. "That raises serious constitutional issues."
Tidwell himself will soon have to defend these practices in court—he's among those named in a class-action lawsuit [53] (PDF) over an informant's allegation that the FBI used him to spy on a number of mosques in Southern California.
That informant, Craig Monteilh, is a convicted felon who made his money ripping off cocaine dealers before becoming an asset for the Drug Enforcement Administration and later the FBI. A well-muscled 49-year-old with a shaved scalp, Monteilh has been a particularly versatile snitch: He's pretended to be a white supremacist, a Russian hit man, and a Sicilian drug trafficker. He says when the FBI sent him into mosques (posing as a French-Syrian Muslim), he was told to act as a decoy for any radicals who might seek to convert him—and to look for information to help flip congregants as informants, such as immigration status, extramarital relationships, criminal activities, and drug use. "Blackmail is the ultimate goal," Monteilh says.
Officially, the FBI denies it blackmails informants. "We are prohibited from using threats or coercion," says Kathleen Wright, an FBI spokeswoman. (She acknowledges that the bureau has prevented helpful informants from being deported.)
FBI veterans say reality is different from the official line. "We could go to a source and say, 'We know you're having an affair. If you work with us, we won't tell your wife,'" says a former top FBI counterterrorism official. "Would we actually call the wife if the source doesn't cooperate? Not always. You do get into ethics here—is this the right thing to do?—but legally this isn't a question. If you obtained the information legally, then you can use it however you want."
But eventually, Monteilh's operation imploded in spectacular fashion. In December 2007, police in Irvine, California, charged him with bilking two women out of $157,000 as part of an alleged human growth hormone scam. Monteilh has maintained it was actually part of an FBI investigation, and that agents instructed him to plead guilty to a grand-theft charge and serve eight months so as not to blow his cover. The FBI would "clean up" the charge later, Monteilh says he was told. That didn't happen, and Monteilh has alleged in court filings that the government put him in danger by letting fellow inmates know that he was an informant. (FBI agents told me the bureau wouldn't advise an informant to plead guilty to a state criminal charge; instead, agents would work with local prosecutors to delay or dismiss the charge.)
The class-action suit, filed by the ACLU, alleges that Tidwell, then the bureau's Los Angeles-based assistant director, signed off on Monteilh's operation. And Tidwell says he's eager to defend the bureau in court. "There is not the blanket suspicion of the Muslim community that they think there is," Tidwell says. "We're just looking for the bad guys. Anything the FBI does is going to be interpreted as monitoring Muslims. I would tell [critics]: 'Do you really think I have the time and money to monitor all the mosques and Arab American organizations? We don't. And I don't want to.'"
Shady informants, of course, are as old as the FBI; one saying in the bureau is, "To catch the devil, you have to go to hell." Another is, "The only problem worse than having an informant is not having an informant." Back in the '80s, the FBI made a cottage industry of drug stings—a source of countless Hollywood plots, often involving briefcases full of cocaine and Miami as the backdrop.
It's perhaps fitting, then, that one of the earliest known terrorism stings also unfolded in Miami, though it wasn't launched by the FBI. Instead the protagonist was a Canadian bodyguard and, as a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, newspaper put it in 2002 [54], "a 340-pound man with a fondness for firearms and strippers." He subscribed to Soldier of Fortune [55] and hung around a police supply store on a desolate stretch of Hollywood Boulevard, north of Miami.
Howard Gilbert aspired to be a CIA agent but lacked pertinent experience. So to pad his résumé, he hatched a plan to infiltrate a mosque in the suburb of Pembroke Pines by posing as a Muslim convert named Saif Allah [56]. He told congregants that he was a former Marine and a security expert, and one night in late 2000, he gave a speech about the plight of Palestinians.
"That was truly the night that launched me into the terrorist umbrella of South Florida," Gilbert would later brag [57] to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Nineteen-year-old congregant Imran Mandhai, stirred by the oration, approached Gilbert and asked if he could provide him weapons and training. Gilbert, who had been providing information to the FBI, contacted his handlers and asked for more money to work on the case. (He later claimed that the bureau had paid him $6,000.) But he ultimately couldn't deliver—the target had sensed something fishy about his new friend.
The bureau also brought in Elie Assaad [58], a seasoned informant originally from Lebanon. He told Mandhai that he was an associate of Osama bin Laden tasked with establishing a training camp in the United States. Gilbert suggested attacking electrical substations in South Florida, and Assaad offered to provide a weapon. FBI agents then arrested Mandhai; he pleaded guilty in federal court and was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison. It was a model of what would become the bureau's primary counterterrorism M.O.—identifying a target, offering a plot, and then pouncing.
Gilbert himself didn't get to bask in his glory; he never worked for the FBI again and died in 2004. Assaad, for his part, ran into some trouble when his pregnant wife called 911. She said Assaad had beaten and choked her to the point that she became afraid [59] for her unborn baby; he was arrested, but in the end his wife refused to press charges.
The jail stint didn't keep Assaad from working for the FBI on what would turn out to be perhaps the most high-profile terrorism bust of the post-9/11 era. In 2005, the bureau got a tip [60] from an informant about a group of alleged terrorists in Miami's Liberty City neighborhood. The targets wereseven men [61]—some African American, others Haitian—who called themselves the "Seas of David" [62] and ascribed to religious beliefs that blended Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The men were martial-arts enthusiasts who operated out of a dilapidated warehouse, where they also taught classes for local kids. The Seas of David's leader was Narseal Batiste [63], the son of a Louisiana preacher, father of four, and a former Guardian Angel.
In response to the informant's tip, the FBI had him wear a wire during meetings with the men, but he wasn't able to engage them in conversations about terrorist plots. So he introduced the group to Assaad, now playing an Al Qaeda operative. At the informant's request, Batiste took photographs of the FBI office in North Miami Beach and was caught on tape discussing a notion to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago. Assaad led Batiste, and later the other men, in swearing an oath to Al Qaeda, though the ceremony (recorded and entered into evidence at trial) bore a certain "Who's on First?" flavor:
"God's pledge is upon me, and so is his compact," Assaad said as he and Batiste sat in his car. "Repeat after me."
"Okay. Allah's pledge is upon you."
"No, you have to repeat exactly. God's pledge is upon me, and so is his compact. You have to repeat."
"Well, I can't say Allah?" Batiste asked.
"Yeah, but this is an English version because Allah, you can say whatever you want, but—"
"Okay. Of course."
"Allah's pledge is upon me. And so is his compact," Batiste said, adding: "That means his angels, right?"
"Uh, huh. To commit myself," Assaad continued.
"To commit myself."
"Brother," Batiste repeated.
"Uh. That's, uh, what's your, uh, what's your name, brother?"
"Ah, Brother Naz."
"Okay. To commit myself," the informant repeated.
"To commit myself."
"You're not—you have to say your name!" Assaad cried.
"Naz. Naz."
"Uh. To commit myself. I am Brother Naz. You can say, 'To commit myself.'"
"To commit myself, Brother Naz."
Things went smoothly until Assaad got to a reference to being "protective of the secrecy of the oath and to the directive of Al Qaeda."
Here Batiste stopped. "And to...what is the directive of?"
"Directive of Al Qaeda," the informant answered.
"So now let me ask you this part here. That means that Al Qaeda will be over us?"
"No, no, no, no, no," Assaad said. "It's an alliance."
"Oh. Well..." Batiste said, sounding resigned.
"It's an alliance, but it's like a commitment, by, uh, like, we respect your rules. You respect our rules," Assaad explained.
"Uh, huh," Batiste mumbled.
"And to the directive of Al Qaeda," Assaad said, waiting for Batiste to repeat.
"Okay, can I say an alliance?" Batiste asked. "And to the alliance of Al Qaeda?"
"Of the alliance, of the directive—" Assaad said, catching himself. "You know what you can say? And to the directive and the alliance of Al Qaeda."

"Okay, directive and alliance of Al Qaeda," Batiste said.
"Okay," the informant said. "Now officially you have commitment and we have alliance between each other. And welcome, Brother Naz, to Al Qaeda."
Or not. Ultimately, the undercover recordings made by Assaad suggest that Batiste, who had a failing drywall business and had trouble making the rent for the warehouse, was mostly trying to shake down his "terrorist" friend. After first asking the informant for $50,000, Batiste is recorded in conversation after conversation asking how soon he'll have the cash.
"Let me ask you a question," he says in one exchange. "Once I give you an account number, how long do you think it's gonna take to get me something in?"
"So you is scratching my back, [I'm] scratching your back—we're like this," Assaad dodged.
"Right," Batiste said.
The money never materialized. Neither did any specific terrorist plot. Nevertheless, federal prosecutors charged (PDF [64]) Batiste and his cohorts—whom the media dubbed the Liberty City Seven—with conspiracy to support terrorism, destroy buildings, and levy war against the US government. Perhaps the key piece of evidence was the video of Assaad's Al Qaeda "oath." Assaad was reportedly paid [65] $85,000 for his work on the case; the other informant got $21,000.
James J. Wedick, a former FBI agent, was hired to review the Liberty City case as a consultant for the defense. In his opinion, the informant simply picked low-hanging fruit. "These guys couldn't find their way down the end of the street," Wedick says. "They were homeless types. And, yes, we did show a picture where somebody was taking the oath to Al Qaeda. So what? They didn't care. They only cared about the money. When we put forth a case like that to suggest to the American public that we're protecting them, we're not protecting them. The agents back in the bullpen, they know it's not true."
Indeed, the Department of Justice had a difficult time winning convictions in the Liberty City case. In three separate trials, juries deadlocked [66] on most of the charges, eventually acquitting one of the defendants (charges against another were dropped) and convicting five of crimes that landed them in prison for between 7 to 13 years. When it was all over, Assaad told ABC News' Brian Ross [58] that he had a special sense for terrorists: "God gave me a certain gift."
But he didn't have a gift for sensing trouble. After the Liberty City case, Assaad moved on to Texas and founded a low-rent modeling agency [67]. In March, when police tried to pull him over, he led them in a chase through El Paso [68] (with his female passenger jumping out at one point), hit a cop with his car, and ended up rolling his SUV on the freeway. Reached by phone, Assaad declined to comment. He's saving his story, he says, for a book he's pitching to publishers.
Not all of the more than 500 terrorism prosecutions [25] reviewed in this investigation are so action-movie ready. But many do have an element of mystery. For example, though recorded conversations are often a key element of prosecutions, in many sting cases the FBI didn't record large portions of the investigation, particularly during initial encounters or at key junctures during the sting. When those conversations come up in court, the FBI and prosecutors will instead rely on the account of an informant with a performance bonus on the line.

One of the most egregious examples of a missing recording involves a convoluted tale that begins in the early morning hours of November 1, 2009, with a date-rape allegation on the campus of Oregon State University. Following a Halloween party, 18-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud [70], a Somali-born US citizen, went home with another student. The next morning, the woman reported to police that she believed she had been drugged.

Campus police brought Mohamud in for questioning and a polygraph test; FBI agents, who for reasons that have not been disclosed had been keeping an eye on the teen for about a month, were also there [71]. Mohamud claimed that the sex was consensual, and a drug test given to his accuser eventually came back negative.
During the interrogation, OSU police asked Mohamud if a search of his laptop would indicate that he'd researched date-rape drugs. He said it wouldn't and gave them permission to examine his hard drive. Police copied its entire contents and turned the data over to the FBI—which discovered, it later alleged in court documents, that Mohamud had emailed someone in northwest Pakistan talking about jihad.
Soon after his run-in with police, Mohamud began to receive emails from "Bill Smith," a self-described terrorist who encouraged him to "help the brothers." "Bill," an FBI agent, arranged for Mohamud to meet one of his associates in a Portland hotel room. There, Mohamud told the agents that he'd been thinking of jihad since age 15. When asked what he might want to attack, Mohamud suggested the city's Christmas tree lighting ceremony [72]. The agents set Mohamud up with a van that he thought was filled with explosives. On November 26, 2010, Mohamud and one of the agents drove the van to Portland's Pioneer Square, and Mohamud dialed [73] the phone to trigger the explosion. Nothing. He dialed again. Suddenly FBI agents appeared and dragged him away as he kicked and yelled, "Allahu akbar!" Prosecutors charged him with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction; his trial is pending.
The Portland case has been held up as an example of how FBI stings can make a terrorist where there might have been only an angry loser. "This is a kid who, it can be reasonably inferred, barely had the capacity to put his shoes on in the morning," Wedick says.
But Tidwell, the retired FBI official, says Mohamud was exactly the kind of person the FBI needs to flush out. "That kid was pretty specific about what he wanted to do," he says. "What would you do in response? Wait for him to figure it out himself? If you'll notice, most of these folks [targeted in stings] plead guilty. They don't say, 'I've been entrapped,' or, 'I was immature.'" That's true—though it's also true that defendants and their attorneys know that the odds of succeeding at trial are vanishingly small. Nearly two-thirds of all terrorism prosecutions since 9/11 have ended in guilty pleas, and experts hypothesize that it's difficult for such defendants to get a fair trial. "The plots people are accused of being part of—attacking subway systems or trying to bomb a building—are so frightening that they can overwhelm a jury," notes David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor who has studied these types of cases.
But the Mohamud story wasn't quite over—it would end up changing the course of another case on the opposite side of the country. In Maryland, rookie FBI agent Keith Bender had been working a sting against 21-year-old Antonio Martinez [74], a recent convert to Islam who'd posted inflammatory comments on Facebook [75]("The sword is cummin the reign of oppression is about 2 cease inshallah"). An FBI informant had befriended Martinez and, in recorded conversations, they talked about attacking a military recruiting station.
Just as the sting was building to its climax, Martinez saw news reports about the Mohamud case, and how there was an undercover operative involved. He worried: Was he, too, being lured into a sting? He called his supposed terrorist contact: "I'm not falling for no BS," he told him [75].
Faced with the risk of losing the target, the informant—whose name is not revealed in court records—met with Martinez and pulled him back into the plot. But while the informant had recorded numerous previous meetings with Martinez, no recording [76] was made for this key conversation; in affidavits, the FBI blamed a technical glitch. Two weeks later, on December 8, 2010, Martinez parked what he thought was a car bomb in front of a recruitment center and was arrested when he tried to detonate [77] it.
Frances Townsend, who served as homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, concedes that missing recordings in terrorism stings seem suspicious. But, she says, it's more common than you might think: "I can't tell you how many times I had FBI agents in front of me and I yelled, 'You have hundreds of hours of recordings, but you didn't record this meeting.' Sometimes, I admit, they might not record something intentionally"—for fear, she says, that the target will notice. "But more often than not, it's a technical issue."
Wedick, the former FBI agent, is less forgiving. "With the technology the FBI now has access to—these small devices that no one would ever suspect are recorders or transmitters—there's no excuse not to tape interactions between the informant and the target," he says. "So why in many of these terrorism stings are meetings not recorded? Because it's convenient for the FBI not to record."
So what really happens as an informant works his target, sometimes over a period of years, and eases him over the line? For the answer to that, consider once more the case of James Cromitie [8], the Walmart stocker with a hatred of Jews. Cromitie was the ringleader in the much-publicized Bronx synagogue bombing plot that went to trial last year [78]. But a closer look at the record reveals that while Cromitie was no one's idea of a nice guy, whatever leadership existed in the plot emanated from his sharply dressed, smooth-talking friend Maqsood, a.k.a. FBI informant Shahed Hussain.
A Pakistani refugee who claimed to be friends with Benazir Bhutto and had a soft spot for fancy cars, Hussain was by then one of the FBI's more successful counterterrorism informants. (See our timeline of Hussain's career as an informant [13].) He'd originally come to the bureau's attention when he was busted in a DMV scam [79] that charged test takers $300 to $500 for a license. Having "worked off" those charges, he'd transitioned from indentured informant to paid snitch, earning as much as $100,000 per assignment.
Hussain was assigned to visit a mosque in Newburgh, where he would start conversations with strangers about jihad [80]. "I was finding people who would be harmful, and radicals, and identify them for the FBI," Hussain said during Cromitie's trial. Most of the mosque's congregants were poor, and Hussain, who posed as a wealthy businessman and always arrived in one of his four luxury cars [81]—a Hummer, a Mercedes, two different BMWs—made plenty of friends. But after more than a year working the local Muslim community, he had not identified a single actual target [82].
Then, one day in June 2008, Cromitie approached Hussain in the parking lot outside the mosque. The two became friends, and Hussain clearly had Cromitie's number. "Allah didn't bring you here to work for Walmart," he told him [83] at one point.
Cromitie, who once claimed he could "con the corn from the cob," had a history of mental instability. He told a psychiatrist that he saw and heard things that weren't there and had twice tried to commit suicide [84]. He told tall tales, most of them entirely untrue—like the one about how his brother stole $126 million worth of stuff from Tiffany.
Exactly what Hussain and Cromitie talked about in the first four months of their relationship isn't known, because the FBI did not record [85] those conversations. Based on later conversations, it's clear that Hussain cultivated Cromitie assiduously. He took the target, all expenses paid [86] by the FBI, to an Islamic conference in Philadelphia to meet Imam Siraj Wahhaj, a prominent African-American Muslim leader. He helped pay Cromitie's rent [87]. He offered to buy him a barbershop [88]. Finally, he asked Cromitie to recruit others [89] and help him bomb synagogues.
On April 7, 2009, at 2:45 p.m., Cromitie and Hussain sat on a couch inside an FBI cover house on Shipp Street in Newburgh. A hidden camera [90] was trained on the living room.
"I don't want anyone to get hurt," Cromitie told the informant [91].
"Who? I—"
"Think about it before you speak," Cromitie interrupted.
"If there is American soldiers, I don't care," Hussain said, trying a fresh angle.
"Hold up," Cromitie agreed. "If it's American soldiers, I don't even care."
"If it's kids, I care," Hussain said. "If it's women, I care."
"I care. That's what I'm worried about. And I'm going to tell you, I don't care if it's a whole synagogue of men."
"I would take 'em down, I don't even care. 'Cause I know they are the ones."
"We have the equipment to do it."
"See, see, I'm not worried about nothing. Ya know? What I'm worried about is my safety," Cromitie said.
"Oh, yeah, safety comes first."
"I want to get in and I want to get out."
"Trust me," Hussain assured.
At Cromitie's trial, Hussain would admit that he created the—in his word—"impression" that Cromitie would make a lot of money by bombing synagogues.
"I can make you $250,000, but you don't want it, brother," he once told [92] Cromitie when the target seemed hesitant. "What can I tell you?" (Asked about the exchange in court, Hussain said that "$250,000" was simply a code word for the bombing plot—a code word, he admitted, that only he knew.)

But whether for ideology or money, Cromitie did recruit three others, and they did take photographs of Stewart International Airport in Newburgh as well as of synagogues in the Bronx. On May 20, 2009, Hussain drove Cromitie [93] to the Bronx, where Cromitie put what he believed were bombs [94] inside cars he thought had been parked by Hussain's coconspirators. Once all the dummy bombs were placed, Cromitie headed back to the getaway car [95]—Hussain was in the driver's seat—and then a SWAT team surrounded the car.
At trial, Cromitie told the judge [96]: "I am not a violent person. I've never been a terrorist, and I never will be. I got myself into this stupid mess. I know I said a lot of stupid stuff." He was sentenced to 25 years.
For his trouble, the FBI paid Hussain $96,000 [97]. Then he moved on to another case, another mosque, somewhere in the United States.
For this project, Mother Jones partnered with the University of California-Berkeley's Investigative Reporting Program [98], headed by Lowell Bergman, where Trevor Aaronson [1] was an investigative fellow. The Fund for Investigative Journalism [99] also provided support for Aaronson's reporting. Lauren Ellis [100] and Hamed Aleaziz [101] contributed additional research.'s_network_of_informants_actually_created_most_of_the_terrorist_plots_


perjantai 15. marraskuuta 2019

The Persecution Of Päivi Räsänen

  • A Developing Story.
  • I was interrogated for almost four hours concerning this tweet.
  • The police asked me if I agree to remove the tweet within two weeks. I answered no.
  • “The more we keep silent about these controversial topical themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech and religion gets.”

Päivi Räsänen, Finnish lawmaker persecuted for
publicly quoting the Bible (CBN News screenshot)

Päivi Räsänen is a member of the Finnish Parliament from the Christian Democratic Party, and a practicing Lutheran. She is also facing hate speech investigations for having questioned publicly her own church leaders’ decision to affirm LGBT pride.
Now, the Finnish police have expanded the investigation to consider charges against her over a 2004 pamphlet she wrote defending the Lutheran Church’s traditional teaching about marriage (which entails denying that same-sex marriage is a real marriage).

It’s worth noting that Räsänen wrote that pamphlet seven years before LGBT was added to the national hate-speech law as a protected class. 

She was investigated once before for the pamphlet, and cleared — but now she’s going to undergo another interrogation.

Here’s a screenshot of the tweet (with a translation) that started it all. I’ve cut off the entire image; it’s simply verses from the Bible that back up Räsänen’s claim. “Kirkko” is Finnish for “the Church” — in this case, the Finnish Lutheran church, in which Räsänen’s husband is a pastor:

Romans 1:24-32 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their [own] hearts to sexual impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves [abandoning them to the degrading power of sin],
25 Because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, Who is blessed forever! Amen (so be it).
26 For this reason God gave them over and abandoned them to vile affections and degrading passions. For their women exchanged their natural function for an unnatural and abnormal one,
27 And the men also turned from natural relations with women and were set ablaze (burning out, consumed) with lust for one another—men committing shameful acts with men and suffering in their own [a]bodies and personalities the inevitable consequences and penalty of their wrong-doing and going astray, which was [their] fitting retribution.
28 And so, since they did not see fit to acknowledge God or approve of Him or consider Him worth the knowing, God gave them over to a base and condemned mind to do things not proper or decent but loathsome,
29 Until they were filled (permeated and saturated) with every kind of unrighteousness, iniquity, grasping and covetous greed, and malice. [They were] full of envy and jealousy, murder, strife, deceit and treachery, ill will and cruel ways. [They were] secret backbiters and gossipers,
30 Slanderers, hateful to and hating God, full of insolence, arrogance, [and] boasting; inventors of new forms of evil, disobedient and undutiful to parents.
31 [They were] without understanding, conscienceless and faithless, heartless and loveless [and] merciless.
32 Though they are fully aware of God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them themselves but approve and applaud others who practice them.
Romans 1:27 Webster’s New International Dictionary offers this as a definition of “selves.”Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation


Räsänen agreed to answer my questions via e-mail.
Below is our interview:

ROD DREHER: You were interrogated for four hours by the police for things you have written about Christianity and homosexuality. What did they want to know?

PÄIVI RÄSÄNEN: There are two separate police investigations, although they both have to do with freedom of religion and free speech. In both cases, the criminal offense I am suspected of is agitation against an ethnic group. 

The background of the first case is this: 

I was shocked when I heard that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, which I am a member of, announced its official affiliation to Helsinki LGBT Pride 2019. In June, I decided to write a tweet where I asked that how can the church’s doctrinal foundation, the Bible, be compatible with the lifting up of shame and sin as a subject of pride? 
The police started a criminal investigation about this tweet in August. I was then summoned to a police interrogation that was conducted November 1 at the Pasila Police Station, Helsinki. I was interrogated for almost four hours concerning this tweet.

The police asked me if I agree to remove the tweet within two weeks. I answered no.

I was asked about the contents of the Letter to the Romans and what I meant by saying that practicing homosexuality is a sin and a shame.

I answered that all of us are sinners, but the sinfulness of practicing homosexuality is nowadays denied. 

Teemu Laajasalo, Bishop of the Diocese of Helsinki, is the 7th Bishop of the Diocese. Bishop Laajasalo was inaugurated on November 12, 2017. The bishop is the spiritual and administrative leader of the diocese.
@teemulaajasalo , email

Irja Kaarina Askola (R) is the former Bishop of Helsinki. 
She was the first female Finnish bishop in the 
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

Antti Juhani Rinne (L) is a Finnish politician serving as
Prime Minister of Finland since 2019 and Leader
of the Social Democratic Party since 2014.


Raija Toiviainen is a Bachelor of Laws and a LL.M.,
who has been the Prosecutor General of Finland since 2018.
Previously she was Deputy Prosecutor General and State Prosecutor.Toiviainen graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in 1980.


"In her CV Mrs. Toiviainen announces that
her guru is Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela and ANC have become almost synonymous


The other police investigation has to do with 

 "FOR THE MAN AND THE WOMAN HE CREATED THEM - Homosexuality challenges the Christian concept of man"

The investigation started inu Agust this year. I have not yet been summoned to the interrogation concerning the pamphlet, but I have understood that it is likely to take place in December. The content of the pamphlet is quite the same as my tweet’s.

The pamphlet is a publication of Suomen Luther-säätiö [The Lutheran Foundation Finland] from 2004. It takes a stand on ecclesiastical policy, social policy, sexuality and marriage from a Christian perspective. It is noteworthy that previously, in October, the police already concluded that there was no need for an investigation, as there was no reason to believe that a crime had been committed.

The Prosecutor General, who was requested to re-evaluate this matter, reached a different conclusion than the police. According to the Prosecutor General, there is reason to believe that because of the defamation of homosexuals by the violation of their human dignity, I am guilty of incitement to hatred against a group.
According to the Criminal Code of our country:
Criminal Code, Section 10: Agitation against an ethnic group “A person who makes available to the public or otherwise spreads among the public or keeps available for the public information, an expression of opinion or another message where a certain group is threatened, defamed or insulted on the basis of its race, skin colour, birth status, national or ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation or disability or a comparable basis, shall be sentenced for ethnic agitation to a fine or to imprisonment for at most two years”.

By the way, this section in our legislation came into force just in 2011, that is seven years after writing the pamphlet.

According to the information I have received, these police investigations will lead to consideration of charges, which will result probably in a prosecution.

It is impossible for me to think that the classical Christian views and the doctrine of the majority of denominations would become illegal. The question here is about the core of Christian faith; how a person gets saved into unity with God and into everlasting life though the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus. Therefore, it is crucial to also talk about the nature of sin.

RD: Is it effectively against the law in Finland to speak about basic Christian beliefs concerning homosexuality?

PR: The law does not prohibit this, and it is legal to speak and preach about what the Bible teaches. Freedom of religion is strongly guaranteed both in our Constitution and in the International Human Rights Treaties. However, more and more so, it seems to be that expressing opinions relating to, for example, marriage belonging between one man and one woman, or the sinfulness of homosexual acts, is politically incorrect, subject to silencing, and frowned upon. My case is a precedent. The Bible is a totally legal book and our church’s doctrinal foundation, according to our law.

Our Church Act states that “All doctrine must be examined and evaluated according to God’s Holy Word.” When our Parliament was discussing the Church Act this autumn, I read aloud the exact same verses from the Letter to the Romans that I cited in my tweet that led to the police investigation. I did this because I thought it was necessary for the parliamentarians to pay attention to the fact that although there were some minor changes proposed to the Church Act, most of the Act stayed the same. The Act still prescribes that the Lutheran Church confesses the Bible-based Christian faith.

This means that the Parliament has not only allowed the Church to confess its faith in its doctrine and action, it prescribes it to do so. The General Synod is the highest decision-making body of the Church. The General Synod makes key decisions relating to the Church’s doctrine and ministry. It has an important legislative function, drafting and presenting Church law for approval or rejection by the Finnish Parliament.

The Christian view of man is currently attacked, whether we think of questions relating to sexuality and gender, protection of life, or concepts such as man or woman, boy or girl. This is sad, as the foundation of the Finnish legislation and civilization lie in Christianity. In these questions we are at the core of unalienable truths. God created man in His own image – therefore human life is sacred and worthy of protection from the beginning to the end and meant to bring glory to God. Our legislation may change, but the laws of nature do not change, nor does the Word of God. As a Christian, I believe it is always the right time to speak about the truths of the Word of God.

I have emphasized that my purpose was in no way to insult sexual minorities. My criticism was aimed to the leadership of the church. As a Christian, I think that if someone expresses an opinion that is against my faith or my conscience, it does not mean that I have been threatened, defamed or insulted the way the Criminal Code means it. As we are living in a democratic country, we must be able to disagree and express our disagreement. We have to be able to cope with speech that we feel insults our feelings. Many questions are so debatable and contradictory that we have to have the possibility of discussing. Otherwise the development is towards a totalitarian system, with only one correct view.
RD: What do the Finnish people think about this? Do they favor the government’s position, and if so, why?
PR: My tweet created a huge uproar and the police investigations have got a lot of attention. The current government of Finland is not involved with my cases in any way. The criminal complaints done against me have been done by Finnish citizens. The criminal investigations are conducted by the police. The judiciary, which is a completely separate body from the government, interprets and applies the law in Finland.
I am surprised that the investigations continue on these cases that have deeply to do with freedom of religion and free speech. I do not see I would have committed a crime, as I believe that many Finns still consider for example marriage as a contract between a man and a woman. The problem is that many of the conservative-minded people are silent about these issues, whereas the advocacy groups of sexual minorities are very aggressive and well organized, and have strongly affected the development of the church, the media and people’s minds. The media’s viewpoint is biased, and it tends continually to give more space and voice to liberal perspectives regarding these issues.
I have to say that I have had amazingly much support from Christians, both from Finland and from abroad, so there seems to be a lot of understanding towards the values I present.
It nevertheless seems that Finnish people are quite divided regarding these issues that have deeply to do with values, and the majority expresses quite liberal thoughts. Out current government is also liberal and the government has announced that an act on the legal recognition of gender based on self-determination will be enacted and the requirement of infertility will be removed from the act. This means that a person’s gender could be changed simply by one’s own application, based on the person’s experience of representing the other gender. I must say that as a medical doctor, Christian and parliamentarian, this kind of policy developments are bad and must not take place.
RD: Do you foresee persecution coming for Finland’s Christians?
PR: If expressing Bible-based views will become more intolerable and considered to have the constituent elements of agitation against an ethnic group, then spreading the Bible or offering access to it should logically be criminalized.
Already at the moment it seems that especially the young people are afraid that if you are labelled as a Bible-believing Christian, it will hinder your career and social acceptance. In my opinion, it is specifically Christianity that is being attacked and will be attacked even more aggressively in the future.

We are clearly living in a time when the core of the Christianity is being questioned.
A major threat for the freedom of religion is that we don’t exercise this right. These police investigations raise concerns about limiting our basic freedoms that have been guaranteed to all of us, also MPs, in our Constitution and International Human Right Treaties. We have to know our rights and use them!
I hope these criminal investigations won’t lead to self-censorship among Christians. I am worried that the police investigations might have a chilling effect among Christians. It seems that many Christians in my country are now hiding and going to the closet now that the LGBT community has come out to the public. I am concerned that in the future Christians will have a higher threshold at citing the Bible or presenting teachings based on the Bible. The more we keep silent about these controversial topical themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech and religion gets.
RD: In the US, gay rights advocates years ago spoke of the necessity of “tolerance.” But we have found that once they gain power, many of them are extremely intolerant. I was just in Russia for 10 days. It is incredible to watch the faces of ordinary Russians when I tell them how far LGBT activism has gone in the US (for example, Drag Queen Story Hour, and Christians losing their jobs and businesses for opposing LGBT claims). What is happening in the West?
PR: I believe that ultimately the purpose of these attacks is to eliminate the Word of God and discard the Law of God. It is very problematic that expressing Christian beliefs is often seen as insulting in the West. For example, marriage between a man and a woman has become a concept that is understood as restrictive, even threatening. Concepts such as man and woman, father and mother, are dearly loved concepts, and as old as the history of humanity. The attempt to break down the gender system based on two different genders hurts especially children. It is unfortunate how uncritically the ideology of sexual diversity and LGBT activism has been supported and endorsed even by churches.
I believe that every person has the right to hear the whole truth of God’s Word, both the Gospel and the Law. Only people who recognize their sins need Jesus, the propitiation for our sins. We must have the courage to speak about the dangerous effects of LGBT activism. Debatable themes such as immoral sexual relations have to do with guilt. Guilt cannot be solved by denying it, but only by confessing it and receiving mercy and the message of forgiveness in Jesus’ sacrifice. It is impossible to think that classical Christian doctrine would become illegal in the West.

RD: What is coming next in your case?
PR: After the police have finished the criminal investigations, the police will send their decision to the Prosecutor General, who will decide on whether to raise charges or not. Depending on the decision of the Prosecutor General, the cases will be handled by district court. The court either disapproves or approves the charges. It is possible to apply to the higher courts if the defendant disagrees with the court’s decision.
Irrespective of the outcome of the criminal investigations, I am going to use my freedom of religion, which is strongly guaranteed both in our Constitution and in the International Human Right Treaties, and publicly speak about the teachings of God’s Holy Word in the future. I encourage others to do the same. We must not be intimidated. If the Prosecutor General raises charges against me, it is likely that this will be a process of several years.
In all this I have a completely calm mind. “…in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11)

What’s happening to her in Finland is not merely about Finland.
It’s about all of us.

Remember her words: “The more we keep silent about these controversial topical themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech and religion gets.”

Silence means collaboration in your own eventual persecution. Notice too that the hostility to this Christian woman is also coming from within her own church, because she stands up for what the church claims to believe. She’s a prophet.

By the way, CBN News interviewed her a couple of weeks ago. Here’s that piece.

Watch it and think about how it is that this slight, soft-spoken Finnish woman — a doctor and mother of five — has more courage than many, many of us American Christians:


Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York PostThe Dallas Morning NewsNational Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street JournalCommentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie LemingCrunchy ConsHow Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.


  • Avatar

    “A person who makes available to the public... ...information, an expression of opinion or another message where a certain group is threatened, defamed or insulted on the basis of its race, skin colour, birth status, national or ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation or disability or a comparable basis...”.
    How is Prosecutor General claiming, that expression of religious doctrine is criminal, wouldn't be against Criminal Code? This is a clear cut case of expressing an opinion, which threatens and defames a group, based on their religion. Replace Christianity with any other religion in this situation, and they'd be up in arms, calling for apology and retraction. Mulsims in UK schools case, certainly weren't just taking it, for which I respect them. Why with Christians, it is always "Please, believe me, I'm not a bigot" and never "How dare you defame and threaten me, because of my beliefs!" Well, Doctor Räsänen seems to be of the latter kind, but that she isn't getting mass support from her community is shameful.

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      It's another sad sad reminder.
      California's informal Empire of Degeneracy has imposed its sick culture throughout the areas formerly occupied by Western Civilisation.
      The only resistance comes now from places that view marxism and the American secular-liberal elites* as an alien hostile force (e.g., the South, and parts of Middle America; Poland, Romania, Russia, etc.).
      (* "elites" - latin for well-groomed white trash)

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        Seems to me that the problem is that there's a Church Act to start with, inviting the government to veer out of its lane and into religious affairs. Finland is the one country where an Orthodox Church is required by law the celebrated on the Western date. Even the Bolshevils didn't do that. If a government can legislate that it it can legislate what the Bible means. Ugh! Separation of Church and State, folks - it's your friend.

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          When homosexuals tell you "don't worry this won't affect you" they are lying. It has and it will. They will not leave you alone no matter what you do. They fully intend to persecute us and do every chance they get.

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            Rod, let's get to the heart of the matter. Who lobbied Finland's government to legalize these anti-free speech hate laws? Who were the groups, group leaders, individuals, and financiers? And other Western nations. As traditional-minded Christians we deserve to know who our persecutors are by name. A list of names. For instance, in America one of the organizations would possibly be the SPLC. And, I learned in TAC recently that the Washington Post ran at least one article favoring the curtailment of First Amendment rights. That rag is owned by Jeff Bezos, so there is another name. But I wonder if people are afraid to compile a list like that because, I estimate, a majority of the financiers and activists would have something in common too taboo to mention.

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              I fully believe that the state should not punish anti-LBGT expression. It would help if those who oppose whatever LBGT-friendly pubic policy would explain how others will be harmed by them. To most of us, bathroom bills and restricting marriage to hetero-sex couples just seems queer if not malicious.

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                Interesting. According to the most recent Human Freedom Index, Finland ranks number 5 in the world in terms of "Personal Freedom" (as opposed to "Economic Freedom"). And yet freedom of speech - about the most basic personal freedom - in Finland seems to be under threat.

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                  So why aren't our Orthodox clergy in Finland also being attacked for "hate speech"? Aren't they articulating the Faith?

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                    Rod, Rod. This is isn't persecution, it's "just the natural consequence of holding to a minority viewpoint in a culture that rejects that viewpoint." (eyeroll)

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                      A few years ago, opinions were published in The Mennonite, the official journal of Mennonite Church USA, that expressed the hope that one day soon, people with our opinions about traditional marriage and sin will be imprisoned for our beliefs. Then, a doxxing and purge by radicals started, which they excused by claiming that defending historical Christian morals represented an assault on women, causing them to fear for their lives.
                      In none of this was objective truth important, only total victory by crushing dissent through personal destruction. They admitted following Alinsky's Rules for Radicals, which permit any means as long as effective.
                      Later on, the The Mennonite published articles claiming that conservative Christians were the real murderers behind the homosexual Islamicist's slaughter at the Pulse Night Club. They claimed the drug and sex hookup facility was "our most sacred space." After the mass murder by a domestic and foreign Islamicist at the San Bernadino government office, they published articles by Christian Peacemaker Teams that "all violence is White." Officials in Canada, including politicians, called for outright banning of the Bible, "a hate document unacceptable in a modern, multicultural state."
                      On our recent sojourn to our Indian Reservation, outside social workers have been agitating for teaching the residents' children how to engage in perverse acts against indigenous culture, falsely claiming native culture has always embraced a "two spirits" celebration of transgenderism and homosexuality. Nothing could be further from the truth, but the bald lie is fearlessly asserted and propagated by the Canadian government, which administers The Indian Act in that country, making people fear retaliation should they speak out.