FBI informants act as 'honeypots' to entrap 21yo 'ISIS sympathizer' – report
FBI informants acted as 'honeypots' to trap a 21-year-old man, posing as love interests to glean information, audio obtained by the Intercept reveals. One woman lured him into making a false claim that he’d tried to go to Syria to fight with Islamic State.
The target of the FBI's operation was Khalil Abu Rayyan, a Michigan resident. When he met an undercover informant by the name of 'Ghaada' online, he quickly became enamored with her. A relationship began, and the two even talked about marriage, children and the future.
But the online relationship ended when Ghaada called it off. Rayyan was heartbroken, but the FBI soon sent another woman, known as 'Jannah Bride,' to heal his wounds.
Rayyan opened up to Jannah Bride, even disclosing that he had thought about suicide. He claimed to have bought a rope which he could use to hang himself.
“I bought a rope this morning...it’s not that hard,” he said in the 14-minute audio footage obtained by the Intercept. “In only a minute or two, it would be over.”
Seeing an open opportunity to prey on Rayyan's vulnerable state, Jannah Bride decided to steer the conversation in the direction of hurting other people.
“Which thought is greater to you right now – hurting yourself or somebody else?” the FBI informant asked.
But despite the FBI's intentions, Rayyan's response proved no violent thoughts towards others.
“Well, I mean, I would not like to hurt somebody else...but at the same time, if I did it to myself, it’d be easier. I wouldn’t get in trouble,” he said.
In another attempt to try to trap Rayyan into admitting he was violent, Jannah Bride appeared to take a deep interest in jihad.
To impress her, Rayyan said he had an AK-47, claiming it was purchased for a plan to “shoot up a church,” which was later foiled. He also claimed to have attempted to travel to Syria. However, both stories appeared to be false. He didn't own the assault weapon, and there is no evidence that he ever bought a ticket to war-torn Syria.
But the claims were enough to prompt the US government to search Rayyan's home and business a couple of months later. And although they couldn't find the apparently fictional AK-47, they managed to charge him with unlawful possession of a handgun, which his lawyer says was obtained for self-defense reasons while delivering pizzas in Detroit.
And despite there being no record of a purchased ticket to Syria (or anywhere nearby), the US government now alleges that Rayyan is an Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) sympathizer, the Intercept reported.
What's more is that the FBI is aiming to keep details of the exchanges with Rayyan completely private. However, Rayyan's lawyers have asked the court to force the government to turn over all communications between their client and the FBI informants.
According to a filing by the defense, the government has proposed a “limited protective order” that “would have kept sealed anything that even summarized material the government deemed sensitive.” Unsurprisingly, the defense has refused to accept the proposal.
In a motion filed April 15, Rayyan's lawyers wrote: “The government clearly exploited Rayyan, and blatantly attempted to steer him toward terrorism as an acceptable form of suicide before God.”
The FBI uses more than 15,000 informants in counter-terrorism investigations, according to the Intercept. Recent investigations have focused on alleged IS sympathizers.