A federal court trial that hinged largely on the work of a paid FBI informant ended with the conviction in 2008 of three Toledo men of Middle Eastern descent on terrorist-related charges.
On Sunday, Al Jazeera plans to air a new documentary titled Informants, which takes a look at the role paid informants played in the Toledo case as well as cases in California and Florida. Al Jazeera talks with three former informants, including Toledo native Darren Griffin, who was paid to infiltrate the local Muslim community in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“One of the things that really struck us about the Toledo case was how egregious the circumstances were,” said Trevor Aaronson, an investigative reporter for Al Jazeera. “These people were not getting involved in a plot on their own.”
Mr. Aaronson said the government has “a near perfect record” in gaining convictions against the 200 or so defendants nationwide who have been charged with acts of terrorism based on the work of paid informants or undercover agents since Sept. 11, 2001. The documentary, company officials said in a news release, “raises questions about whether the men targeted would have acted at all were it not for the paid informants working on the cases.”
It focuses in part on the case of Mohammad Amawi of Toledo, who is now serving a 20-year sentence for conspiring with Marwan El-Hindi and Wassim Mazloum to plan attacks to kill or injure U.S. troops in Iraq and other countries and providing materials and support to terrorists.
Toledo attorney Stephen Hartman, who represented El-Hindi, was not interviewed for the documentary but argued strongly before El-Hindi’s 12-year prison sentence was imposed that his client had been a victim of entrapment.
The government “created the case,” Mr. Hartman said. “These guys would have never spoken to each other let alone gotten in the same room if it wasn’t for this [informant]. He was the connection, and he spent two years trying to get my client to talk about jihad and violence and talking to him about what happened in the Middle East and trying to get him fired up.”
Informants will be available for viewing online after noon Sunday at youtube.com/user/AlJazeeraEnglish.