The lawyer for a man convicted of a terror-related crime that was engineered by the same government informant at the center of the Newburgh Four case describes the informant an unscrupulous liar who, in both cases, preyed on the ignorance and lack of sophistication of his targets.
In an interview with TPMmuckraker, defense lawyer Terence Kindlon called Shahed Hussain a “treacherous, clever, completely ingenious dissembler,” and “a real snake.”Kindlon represented an Albany imam, Yassin Aref, who was convicted in 2006 for his involvement in a money-laundering scheme connected to a fictitious terror plot. As the New York Post reported last week, Hussain convinced a friend of Aref’s, Albany pizzeria owner Mohammed Hossain, to launder the cash, while Aref acted as a witness. Hussain — who was working with the Feds in order to avoid deportation to Pakistan, after being convicted in 2002 of helping immigrants to cheat on their drivers’ tests — falsely told the men that the cash had come from the sale of shoulder-fired missile to be used to kill a Pakistani envoy.
Kindlon said Hussain — using the alias “Malik” — ingratiated himself with Hossain over a lengthy period of time, in part by buying gifts for Hossain’s six children.
The Hossain/Aref case has been criticized as an example of over-zealous law enforcement eager to bring terror cases in the wake of 9/11. An Albany Times-Union columnist described the sting in one 2007 column as a “witch hunt.”
As for the Newburgh case, Kindlon called it “the graduate version of our case,” arguing that Hussain — who this time around went by the alias “Maqsood” — took advantage of the Newburghers’ poverty and desperation, and that the FBI had engineered the entire plot from the start.
“It could have been any kind of conspiracy you wanted,” said Kindlon. “I think what happened is that the FBI — during the Bush administration — basically designed a conspiracy, dreamed up a scary story, shooting down airplanes… and they found four idiots to become the defendants. It was like they dressed them up in halloween costumes.”
He called the Newburgh case “an idiotic charade,” adding “it’s like professional wrestling: everyone knows its fake, but it’s fun to watch.”
Kindlon said he has been contacted by the mother of David Wiliams, one of the Newburgh Four, but that he’s unable to take on any of the accused plotters’ defenses.
Of course, it’s worth remembering that Hossain and Aref were convicted in connection with the money-laundering scheme. And as the authorities have pointed out, the fact that defendants are unintelligent or unsophisticated doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not dangerous.
Still, in retrospect, the Hossain/Aref case doesn’t appear to have been the terror case of the century, despite the FBI’s breathless pronouncements. And that would seem to be the case with the Newburgh Four, too.