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    From the PLAYBOY vault: New doc focuses on bogus FBI “spy,” but read the true story of Emad Salem who infiltrated the Blind Sheikh’s NYC al Qaeda cell

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    By Peter Lance October 11th, 2015. The late Justice Learned Hand once wrote that the truth is best gathered from “a multitude of tongues.” So I offer a minority report on (T)error the new award winning documentary opening this week which covers a post 9/11 FBI sting operation in Pittsburgh conducted by one Saeed Torres aka Sharrif.

    Torres claims he’s an ex-Black Panther who allowed filmmakers Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe to record his undercover efforts to sting Khalifah, a man the Bureau alleged was a terror suspect. As we’ll see, the film, which Newsweek called, “one of the best… of 2015,” is an important piece of journalism because it underscores the number of worthless “entrapment” stings conducted by the FBI since Sept. 11th 2001.

    See this excerpt from Deal With The Devil, my latest investigative book on the Bureau:

    In April, 2012, the NYT reported, “Of the 22 most frightening plans for attacks since 9/11 on American soil, 14 were developed in (FBI) sting operations.” In other words, the would-be domestic terrorists lacked the wherewithal to pull off their deadly plots absent the help of Bureau undercover operatives.

    As documented in his 2013 book “The Terror Factory: Inside The FBI’s Manufactured War of Terrorism” investigative reporter Trever Aaronson found that of 508 defendants the U.S. government considered terrorists in prosecutions brought since 9/11, “243 had been targeted  through an FBI informant, 158 had been caught in an FBI terrorism sting and 49 had encountered an agent provocateur.” Aaronson wrote, “Of the 508 cases I could count on one hand the number of actual terrorists, such as failed New York City subway bomber Najibullah Zazi who posed a direct and imminent threat to the U.S.” 

     In Triple Cross, my third Harpercollins book, I reported on the case of Derrick Shareef, a twenty-two-year old Rockford, Illinois man who pled guilty in 2007 to planning to use “weapons of mass destruction against persons and properties” in what was described as a “Terror Plot” to attack a shopping mall in Rockford, Illinois. As it turned out, Shareef was so broke that he planned to hock a pair of stereo speakers to raise the $50 for each of the fake grenades JTTF agents offered to sell him. Those were the WMD’s he was convicted of planting and without the help of FBI agents there would have been no “terror plot.”

    The same thing could be said of the “Newburgh Four,” four poor U.S. black Muslims arrested for planting bombs outside synagogues in the Bronx and plotting to fire a Stinger Missile at military airplanes in Newburgh, New York, in 2009. They were also aided and abetted by undercover FBI agents as was the 21 year old Bangledeshi who was charged in October, 2012 with trying to bomb the Federal Reserve bank in Manhattan. The question is whether any of them possessed the capability of bringing off those plots without the intervention of FBI agent provocateurs?


    There is always a danger when filmmakers trust an undercover operative, who betrays the very agency he’s working for — even if the betrayal is for a worthy cause. But in reporting on the film this week in Andrew O’Hehir writes, “Shariff says he was recruited by the FBI following the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 because he had previously worked with Omar Abdel-Rahman, aka the Blind Sheikh.”

    Well, as one who’s covered the ex-Egyptian Army officer who actually did succeed in getting next to Omar Abdel Rahman and helped convict him in the 1994 “Day of Terror” Plot, I can state without equivocation that Saeed Torres, aka Shariff never got within a New York City block of the blind cleric. 

    I’ve reported on this site and in multiple books, that the heroic Egyptian-American émigré the Bureau actually used to convict Sheikh Omar was Emad Salem. If the FBI had any other operatives like Sharrif at work as Salem stung the Sheikh’s cell, they would have put the his life in grave danger. And as Salem told me in an interview tonight, while he went under with the Sheikh’s cell both before and after the ’93 WTC bombing there were only two African American “jihadis” present and neither of them was Saeed Torres.

    And as I chronicle in attached piece for PLAYBOY, The Spy Who Came In For The Heat, Salem’s real-life story is worthy not just of a documentary but a feature film. During the month’s long “Day of Terror” prosecution in 1995 he was on the stand for more than 30 days, being crossed-examined by no less than 11 defense lawyers. Salem was so credible that the jury sent Sheikh Omar away for life.

    Further, the sting that Emad Salem pulled off involved a fiendish plot by the blind Sheikh’s operatives to build five World Trade Center bomb-like devices with the intent of blowing up the bridges and tunnels into Manhattan, the U.N. and 26 Federal Plaza, the very building on Foley Square that houses the FBI’s New York Office. 

    This wasn’t some ham-handed “gang that couldn’t shoot straight” plot against a single Pittsburgh target, but a coordinated sting at a Queens warehouse monitored 24/7 by FBI surveillance in which Salem led the “brothers” in concocting the so-called “witches brew” of faux ammonium nitrate and fuel oil that was to detonate what the conspirators believed were actual Weapons of Mass Destruction.

    The fact that the Bureau got it so right in this first undercover plot and so wrong in most of the 500 others is a true testimony to the bravery and ingenuity of Emad Salem, a naturalized U.S. citizen who risked his life multiple times for this country.

    But in the spirit of “a multitude of tongues,” by all means go to see (T)error, read the PLAYBOY piece below, along with the first book in my HarperCollins FBI terrorism trilogy 1000 Years For Revenge, which documents Salem’s hair-raising infiltration of the man known as “The Prince of Jihad.” Then buy Emad’s memoir, UNDERCOVER, just out in hardcover. The book the LA Times called, “a great read.”










    [xi] Clifden Kennedy, “Faisal Shazhad Charged with Five Counts, Admits Training in Pakistan,” CBS News, May 4, 2010.

    [xii] Sarah Titterton “Boston marathon bombs: Tamerlan Tsarnaev ‘interviewed by FBI in 2011’” April 2o, 2013.


    Robert Brodsky and Kevin Deutsch, “Rep Peter King questions FBI’s 2011 investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Newsday April 20, 2013.


    [xiii] Robert Brodsky and Kevin Deutsch, “Rep Peter King questions FBI’s 2011 investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Newsday April 20, 2013.

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