At dawn on May 14, 2011, more than two dozen federal agents and local police officers converged on a working-class neighborhood near the Miami airport and surrounded a small green-and-white stucco building—Masjid Miami, one of the city’s oldest mosques. Police sealed off a two-block radius, and F.B.I. agents, some armed with AR-15 rifles, assembled outside the door.While the feds do have some resources to fight cases like this, the State Public Defenders do not. John Oliver does this amazing piece on how state PDs need more funding:
Inside, eight men were kneeling for the first prayer of the day. When agents called for them to open up, one of the worshippers, a former police officer, went out and asked them to wait until the prayer was finished. The agents complied, and then they arrested the mosque’s imam, Hafiz Khan, an émigré from a mountainous corner of Pakistan near the Afghan border. Khan was in his late seventies, an albino with thick glasses and a long colorless rush of beard. He had moved to America, with members of his family, in 1994, at the encouragement of a younger brother in Alabama. They became citizens, but Khan spoke no English and rarely left the mosque or a one-room apartment across the street, which he shared with his wife, Fatima. He was known to some of the locals as el viejito barbón—the old bearded man. Kids referred to him as the Santa Claus imam.While the F.B.I. was arresting Khan, another team of federal agents and police assembled forty miles away, in the city of Margate. They surrounded Jamaat Al-Mu’mineen, a large mosque presided over by Hafiz’s youngest son, Izhar Khan. Izhar, who was twenty-four, was about to lead the morning prayer when agents in F.B.I. windbreakers confronted him in the parking lot. Izhar had moved to Florida when he was eight years old, and he spoke barely accented English. He wore a long dark beard, a black cotton robe, and a skullcap. The agents examined the computers in his office, and when they searched his cell phone they noticed that many of his text messages were about the Miami Heat and other teams.Meanwhile, a third maneuver in the F.B.I.’s operation against the Khans was unfolding in Los Angeles, where it was 3 A.M. and Izhar’s brother Irfan, a thirty-seven-year-old software programmer, was asleep in his room at the Homestead Studio Suites, an inexpensive business hotel in El Segundo. Married, with two kids, Irfan was a sitcom buff who made hammy jokes about his waistline. (“This won’t be good for my diet!”) He lived in Miami and worked for American Unit, an I.T. company. For the past three months, he had been commuting every two weeks to an assignment in El Segundo. He was awakened by a phone call from the police, advising him to go to the door. He was handcuffed and led to a waiting car, past bomb-sniffing dogs and helmeted men in camouflage.After the arrests, federal authorities announced that, in all, six people in Florida and abroad had been charged with funnelling tens of thousands of dollars into a conspiracy to “murder, kidnap, or maim persons overseas,” orchestrated by the Pakistani Taliban, an ally of Al Qaeda. The group was known for having trained Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American who, in May, 2010, tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square. In 2012, Pakistani Taliban gunmen boarded a bus in northwest Pakistan and shot Malala Yousafzai, a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl who had called for the education of women.
The F.B.I. had been secretly tracking the Khans for at least a year, monitoring their finances and recording thousands of hours of conversation, in person and on the phone. Two other members of the family were also indicted—a daughter and a seventeen-year-old grandson, who live in Pakistan—along with a Pakistani shopkeeper, who had served as a middleman. In the indictment, they were accused of conspiring to buy guns, shelter the Taliban, and send students “to learn to kill Americans in Afghanistan.” The indictment described phone calls from Miami, in which the father “called for an attack on the Pakistani Assembly” and “called for the death of Pakistan’s President.” The U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer told the Sun Sentinel that a list of cash transfers totalling fifty thousand dollars was “just the tip of the iceberg,” and declared, “We will be able to prove that there is more than fifty thousand dollars that went to the Taliban.” Each of the accused faced between forty-five and sixty years in prison.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
“This case was stunningly weak.”
That was Federal Public Defender Michael Caruso about the case against his client Irfan Khan, which was dismissed before trial. The New Yorker covers the entire case here in a very interesting read, called "The Imam's Curse." The article starts with a description of how the feds really pumped up this dud of a case: