- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
Federal authorities on Wednesday charged a 21-year-old Bangladeshi man with conspiring to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in Lower Manhattan, after he tried to detonate a van filled with what he believed to be explosives.
The entire plot was in fact an elaborate F.B.I. sting.
As I wrote in February after the FBI arrested a man who accepted what the thought was an explosive vest on Capitol Hill:
the story is similar to that of Rezwan Ferdaus, who was arrested last September in the midst of a plot to attack the Capitol with a remote-controlled aircraft. …The case is also similar to that Farooque Ahmed, who thought he was going to blow up the DC Metro system in 2010, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who thought he was going to blow up a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland Oregon in 2010, David Williams, who thought he was going to blow up a Bronx synagogue in 2009, and the "Fort Dix Five," who thought they were going to attack a New Jersey military base in 2006.
The FBI report on the Federal Reserve plot is here. Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis had been in touch with the FBI’s undercover informant since July. Nafis apparently came to the U.S. with the intention of waging jihad, and — according to the report — came up with the idea of bombing the Federal Reserve himself, after first considering the Stock Exchange. But it’s pretty clear that he was nudged along in his plan by the agent posing as an al Qaeda member and facilitator, who gave him the impression that his actions were approved by al Qaeda leadership.
For instance, in September, Nafis said he wanted to return to Bangladesh prior to the attack, but was told by the agent that while he was "free to return home at any time, NAFIS could not travel internationally if NAFIS truly intended to carry out his attack with al Qaeda’s assistance." The source even accepted an article from Nafis, giving him the impression that it would be published in Inspire magazine.
This is going to raise more questions about the degree to which law enforcement agents are actually the ones concocting these plots by Muslim immigrants who did not, actually, have any connection to al Qaeda — though Nafis seems to have been a more active participant than some of his predecessors.
It’s also pretty amazing that this keeps working.