Conspirator turned FBI informant Abdirahman Bashir testified all day Thursday. Bashir is one of three key witnesses, but if the prosecution has a star witness among them, it is probably Bashir. He is likely to remain on the stand through the half-day of the trial this morning.
The highlight of Bashir’s testimony derives from his work undercover for the FBI once he turned informant in early 2014. He recorded conversations with the group ardently desiring to join the jihad in Syria. The three defendants are among Bashir’s group featured on the recordings that the prosecution is playing for the jury. Bashir’s recordings and his explication of them are the capstone of Bashir’s testimony. They continue this morning.
Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Winter previewed the recordings in his opening statement, but he undersold them. In opening statements and in their cross examination of the witnesses so far, defense counsel have portrayed defendants as innocents “ensnared” by Bashir. The recordings destroy this portrait.
Bashir does little of the talking on the recordings. Defendants have full knowledge of what ISIS is about. They are burning to get out of the United States and join the jihad. The recordings do not comport with entrapment. On the contrary, they belie it. Listening to the recordings, one hears the defendants’ intensity and excitement at the prospect of joining ISIS. These guys were ecstatic over the prospect of their death in jihad. The Muslim oath “wallahi, billahi, tillahi” appears throughout the recordings. (I don’t think the prosecutor has asked Bashir to explain it.)
A knowledgeable observer also points out to me that “many, if not all, of the families knew their kids were ISIS supporters and did next to nothing about it. Not only did nothing but have persisted, with friendly media, to claim entrapment or outright manufacturing of evidence.” See, for example, Montemayor’s article linked above.
I would add only that the families did not want to lose their kids to ISIS in Syria. They sought to prevent their travel while keeping the issue in family and treating it as a family matter. On one of the recordings, however, defendant Mohamed Farah’s grandmother is reported to have told him that she’ll give him $500 if he can find a way out of the United States.
Defendant Guled Omar appears prominently on the recordings played so far. I tried to keep up with quotable quotes as they appeared in the transcript playing on the courtroom monitor. In the March 3, 2015 recording, for example, Omar can be heard saying: “You don’t know how much I am sick of this place…we just a bunch of lazy ass niggas….You think you can’t outsmart an African nigga [with a fake passport]? Give ’em about $30…”
On March 13, they talked at the Karmel Square Mosque in south Minneapolis (warmly celebrated here by the Star Tribune upon its opening). The prospect of acquiring fake passports for their travel to Syria has them revved. Omar says: “Dumbass Mexicans don’t know shit about American passports…we’re going to kill the kuffar [unbelievers]…”
On March 15 they talk over a meal at IHOP in Bloomington. They discuss possibly funding their travel with money provided by ISIS. They had been told by their friends in Syria that it is difficult to wire money into the United States. They might be able to arrange it in Mexico. In a variation on John Lennon, Omar says: “Imagine if you lived in Sweden…” How easy life (death) would be!
Omar wanted to travel to Syria via Mexica. Once they had scoped out Mexican routes to Turkey/Syria through their travel, they would be able to coach ISIS fighters on how to travel to the United States through Mexico for jihad. “They already look Mexcian,” he says. “Wallah, we have a big opportunity.”
Bashir sought to join ISIS in Syria during 2013 along with the defendants. Bashir worked toward the end of 2013 for Integrated Deicing Services where I believe his job duties included deicing airplanes at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. I find that to be newsworthy and chilling, but Star Tribune reporter Stephen Montemayor only vaguely notes Bashir’s employment at the airport in passing in his otherwise helpful account of Bashir’s testimony yesterday. See also the MPR’s running account of the trial by Mukhtar Ibrahim, Laura Yuen and Doualy Xaykaothao at day 9.
Three of Bashir’s cousins made it to Syria to join ISIS. Two of the three lived in Edmonton, but the third — Hanad Mohallim — was another “Minnesota man.” Mohallim made it to Syria in March 2014. The interest in Mohallim’s among the “Minnesota men” at home was strong. Bashir stayed in touch with him and his other cousins. He was counseled not to “miss the caravan.”