For a moment in early 2009, James Cromitie, who was being secretly taped in a federal terrorism sting operation, voiced doubts. A government informer asked Mr. Cromitie if he still wanted to go through with a plot to bomb synagogues and shoot down military planes.
“I have to think about it,” Mr. Cromitie replied during a recorded conversation on Feb. 23, 2009. The informer pressed him to speed things up — for instance, by recruiting more members for the plot from a local mosque.
“Don’t ever ask me to ask the brothers in the mosque to do anything,” Mr. Cromitie snapped.
As Mr. Cromitie seemed to waver in the months before his arrest in May 2009 — avoiding the informer’s calls and disappearing for several weeks — the informer’s entreaties to him grew more and more urgent.
In April, the informer, Shahed Hussain, told Mr. Cromitie that he had put his “life on the line” for Mr. Cromitie, an allusion to a Pakistani terror group that Mr. Hussain said he belonged to. “When I say to my brother, ‘I’m going to do this,’ I need to do it,” he said. In another conversation, he reproached Mr. Cromitie: “I told you I can make you $250,000, but you don’t want it.”
Lawyers for Mr. Cromitie and three other men arrested in the case say Mr. Hussain’s appeals to act turned the men to terror and constituted illegal entrapment. Prosecutors assert there is ample evidence in dozens of recorded conversations — and the defendants’ own actions — that the defendants were willing to commit terror.
This is a tribute to clear thinking about philanthropy by a Harvard Business School professor who has written a book called Uncharitable. The nonprofit charitable world needs more like him.
I know of institutions whose budgets for fundraising and development are so modest that there is no connection between the gifts they receive and the activity in their development offices, i.e. all that they spend is essentially “beside the point.” This might be alright if these same institutions weren’t starving their missions for lack of resources.
A killer observation from this column:
At last count, the 72 federally-funded fusion centers around the country (including two in Massachusetts) seem to focus less on catching terrorists and more on tracking people engaged in such “suspicious” activities as opposing abortion, supporting third-party candidates (such as Ron Paul, Bob Barr, and Cynthia McKinney), defending the environment, and calling for an end to war.
To make matters worse, these “fusion centers” are funded by federal Homeland Security tax dollars but operated by local cops — a classic case of “Little Brother” doing the watching on behalf of Big Brother. (Blogger’s Note: Does this remind you at all of what the Federal Government is fighting against in Arizona? Do these people know what they think?)
States also are left to decide what — if any — independent oversight is put in place to protect individuals against unwarranted government intrusion into our private lives. Like most states, Massachusetts has yet to adopt fusion center oversight legislation (a good bill died in the Public Safety committee this session).
Of course, government surveillance is not a new threat to democracy. What is new is the combination of 21st Century technology and the post-9/11 zeal for anything that carries the label “homeland security.”