the tragic tale of Sami Osmakac – or how the FBI creates a terrorist patsy

On Thursday 19th, Democracy Now! spoke with investigative journalist Trevor Aaronson, who recently exposed how the FBI manipulated the mentally disturbed and financially insecure Sami Osmakac into becoming a terrorist patsy:

What’s particularly interesting about this case is that this is a rare, if first ever, look at behind the scenes of a counterterrorism sting operation. And organizations like Human Rights Watch have often criticized these types of sting operations for targeting mentally ill, economically desperate people who, on their own, would not have the means to commit this type of crime. And these transcripts, the sealed transcripts that we obtained that were the accidentally recorded conversations among FBI agents as they were working the sting, certainly suggest that the FBI seems to agree with groups like Human Rights Watch, that in the case of Sami Osmakac, at least, they didn’t think he was capable of committing significant violence. You know, as the transcripts you showed earlier demonstrated, they thought he was a “retarded fool.” They describe his plot as “wishy-washy” and a “pipe-dream scenario.”

But notwithstanding Osmakac’s fragile grip on reality they gave him a small amount of money and encouraged him to use it as a down payment to procure weapons, as well as getting him “to record a so-called martyrdom video, in which he’s wearing a suicide vest and has an AK-47 leaned up against a closet door behind him—all of which were provided by the FBI.” Following which, the story gets much darker again:

[A]t the very end, they get him to attempt to deliver a car bomb, which was of course provided by the FBI. And as he backs out of a hotel parking lot, the car bomb in his trunk, FBI agents rush in and arrest him.

In fact, the entire FBI sting operation involved deliberate entrapment from the outset:

[W]hat these transcripts show, which are transcripts that a federal judge and the FBI never wanted released, they show that they went to an enormous length to orchestrate—and that’s their word, “orchestrate”—a situation where Sami Osmakac would be given money to then purchase weapons, and so he could be, essentially, kind of created as a terrorist in this FBI sting operation.

But might this not have taken a darker twist again? Because we also learn that federal prosecutors in on the sting had asked the FBI to supply them with a “Hollywood ending”. And we all know how Hollywood endings (especially “splashy” ones) tend to be a little more ‘spectacular’ than the routine arrest of the suspect.

At the trial, a court-appointed psychologist diagnosed Osmakac as suffering from a ‘schizoaffective disorder’, but in spite of this, in November 2014, he was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison. Trevor Aaronson sums up the case:

But to make clear, the government, in the trial, never was able to provide any evidence that Sami Osmakac had any connections to international terrorists groups. There was nothing in the record to suggest that he was on the verge of an attack, [or that] he had connections to people who could help him with an attack. This was, at best, an idea, an idea that was manipulated by the government through an FBI informant and an undercover agent. And in the end, the capacity for that idea—all of the weapons, all of the money—was provided by the FBI in this very elaborately orchestrated sting operation.

The case of Sami Osmakac is nothing like as extraordinary as many might suppose. Back in 2013, Trevor Aaronson published a book entitled “The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terror” in which he revealed how since 9/11 the FBI has:

“built a network of more than 15,000 informants whose primary purpose is to infiltrate Muslim communities to create and facilitate phony terrorist plots so that the bureau can then claim victory in the war on terror.”

In other words, this modus operandi is tried and tested, and so what is extraordinary is not the case of Sami Osmakac as such, but as Trevor Aaronson reveals, how most of the alleged plots in the “war on terror” are concocted this way:

Sami Osmakac is one of more than 175 so-called terrorists since 9/11 who have been caught in these types of sting operations.

Click here to watch the interview or read a full transcript on the Democracy Now! website.

In part two of the same Democracy Now! interview, Trevor Aaronson draws similarities to other recent ‘terrorist’ sting operations. He also speaks more at length regarding specific details in the Sami Osmakac case, including the role played by a “pretty mysterious guy” called Russell Dennison, who Osmakac apparently met at his mosque:

It’s clear from Sami’s story that Russell Dennison was there as kind of Sami’s turn toward extremism began. And it was Russell Dennison, who is an American-born convert to Islam, who had encouraged Sami to post YouTube videos, in which they, you know, ranted about nonbelievers, and, in some cases, Sami would call the leaders of the local Muslim communities derogatory names, and then rant even about kind of their strong faith in Islam. What’s interesting about Russell Dennison is that he miraculously takes Sami on a 45-minute drive to meet Abdul Dabus, the informant who worked the sting operation. And to this day, Sami doesn’t know why he agreed to go on this ride. And to this day, he’s not sure why Russell Dennison even wanted to go. But they went along. And when he gets to meet Abdul Dabus, Dabus offers him a job, and that’s the beginning of the sting operation.

We also hear more from Sami’s brother Avni Osmakac, who says:

Well, ever since this happened—we have a little business in St. Petersburg, Florida. Everybody is just scared, and our family is scared to even go outside, because ever since this happened, multiple times they broke into the business. We have gotten death threats, letters and everything else. We sold our house to get lawyers—raise money for the lawyers. Now, everything that went down, we pretty much spent all the money that we can. And we’re really looking for somebody that can help us to raise some money to get a lawyer for his appeal and everything. And there’s really nothing else we can say about this. I just want people to understand that everything that’s going on with this case is, the government is doing all these things, and they want you to be scared when they see these videos. And even the cameras, holding the camera, the government is doing all this. And they need to understand, there’s no terrorism going on in the United States without the government’s help or without the government knowing about it. […]

I know if the government would have never got involved, he would have never even thought about any crimes. Before all this happened, he never committed a crime at all.

I cannot find a youtube upload of part two of the interviews but you can click here to watch on the Democracy Now! website.

Click here to read more on the story of Sami Osmakac at The Intercept website.

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