Provocateur Unmasked: The FBI's Cleveland Bridge Bomb Plot Informant

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Common Dreams

Provocateur Unmasked: The FBI's Cleveland Bridge Bomb Plot Informant

Shaquille Azir, 39, was indicted twice during FBI Occupy Cleveland sting operation

by
Common Dreams staff

Shaquille Azir, the FBI hired informant who helped orchestrate the FBI sting that resulted in the arrest of five 'black bloc' anarchists for allegedly plotting to blow up an Ohio bridge is a convicted felon who was arrested on bad check and theft charges in the midst of his FBI sting operation.

The attorney of one of the five men charged in connection with an alleged plot to blow up a northeast Ohio bridge has revealed the identity of the provocateur/informant hired by the FBI to infiltrate Occupy Cleveland.

John Pyle, the Cleveland attorney representing suspect Brandon Baxter, said that the informant working with the group was Shaquille Azir, 39.

A federal grand jury issued three-count indictments today against the five self-proclaimed anarchists. All five face identical charges: one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction to destroy property used in interstate commerce, one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction to destroy property used in interstate commerce and one count of attempted use of an explosive device to damage or destroy real property used in interstate commerce. The maximum punishment is life in prison.

The FBI affidavit can be read here.

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The Associated Press reports:

An attorney representing one of five defendants in an alleged conspiracy to blow up an Ohio bridge questioned the role of an undercover informant, saying the ex-con hired by the FBI appeared to have played an active role in the plot.

Their arrests that night marked the latest case in which FBI agents or informants planned fake terrorism plots alongside targeted suspects.Cleveland defense lawyer John Pyle also said Wednesday that the case could be one of "the tail wagging the dog." He said his client, Brandon Baxter, will plead not guilty in the case, which is set for a preliminary hearing next week.

Much of a 22-page FBI affidavit outlining the charges was based on the work of an undercover operative who has drug, robbery and bad check convictions.

"We need to get the discovery and put the case under a microscope," Pyle said. "But just on the basis on the filing in the court, there's some indicators that this informant was playing a really active role."

Federal authorities described the men as anarchists who are angry with corporate America and the government and unknowingly worked with an FBI informant for months as they crafted and carried out their plan. [...]

Their arrests that night marked the latest case in which FBI agents or informants planned fake terrorism plots alongside targeted suspects.

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The Smoking Gun reports:

Unmasked: Meet The FBI's Bridge Bomb Plot Snitch

The paid informant who helped orchestrate the FBI sting that resulted in the arrest of five anarchists for allegedly plotting to blow up an Ohio bridge is a convicted felon who was arrested on bad check and theft charges in the midst of his cooperation with federal investigators, The Smoking Gun has learned.

Shaquille Azir, 39, was named in a pair of felony indictments filed in January in Cuyahoga County, according to court records. Azir, who TSG has identified as the informant in the federal bombing case, is accused in the indictments of passing bad checks on July 25, 2011 and December 22, 2011.

Azir, pictured in the mug shot at right, “has been working as a source for the FBI since July 20, 2011,” according to the U.S. District Court complaint filed yesterday against the alleged bomb plotters. Wearing a body recorder, Azir captured the five self-styled anarchists plotting to use C-4 explosive to take down a Cleveland-area bridge.

Azir arranged for the purchase of the C-4 from an undercover FBI agent. He also fronted the alleged conspirators money for the buy of the material, which had been rendered inert by federal investigators. If the bombing case goes to trial, defense lawyers will certainly portray the 6’ 5”, 350-pound Azir as the plot’s instigator, a snitch who pocketed the FBI’s money to help entrap the five defendants, who range in age from 20 to 35. [...]

If the bombing case goes to trial, defense lawyers will certainly portray the 6’ 5”, 350-pound Azir as the plot’s instigator, a snitch who pocketed the FBI’s money to help entrap the five defendants.Azir’s most recent--and ongoing--brushes with the law are not disclosed in the federal complaint, which provides a brief description of the criminal past of the “Confidential Human Source,” or “CHS,” who was instrumental in helping the FBI put together the bombing case (and who has “provided information and intelligence that have led to the opening of several additional investigations”).

The FBI source--who has been paid “$5750 for services and $550 for expenses”--has prior convictions for cocaine possession (1990), robbery (1991), and four convictions for passing bad checks between 1991 and 2011, according to the bombing complaint. No mention is made, however, of Azir’s two pending criminal cases.

Additionally, the FBI somehow failed to mention a variety of other convictions--grand theft, tampering with records, aggravated theft--on the rap sheet of Azir, who was formerly known as Kelvin Jackson and has recently worked as a landlord and building contractor.

Some of the accused bomb plotters apparently worked on buildings owned by Azir, who told members of the group that he wanted to keep the C-4 “in one of his properties so that they do not have to involve anyone else in the plan.” Two days before the bridge bombing was to occur, one of the alleged plotters, Connor Stevens, decided that he wanted to bail from the conspiracy, according to the federal complaint. However, the 20-year-old Stevens “still wanted to work on CHS’ houses,” reported FBI Agent Ryan Taylor.[...]

Ohio records show that Azir spent nearly three years in state prison for robbery and possession of stolen property before being paroled in January 1995. He returned to the state system for six months in 2009 following a bad check conviction in Cuyahoga County. Azir’s most recent conviction came last November for grand theft and passing bad checks. He was sentenced to 18 months probation.

The federal complaint filed against the alleged bridge plotters notes that the FBI’s “Confidential Human Source” has not been paid by the bureau “since beginning his/her probation.” The FBI probe of the five anarchists began after agents directed Azir to attend an October 21 Occupy Wall Street rally in Cleveland.

The agents mobilized Azir after receiving “an initial report of potential criminal activity and threats involving anarchists who would be attending” the “Occupy” event. While at the rally, Azir met Douglas Wright, 26, who reportedly confided details of planned attacks “against corporate America and the financial system.” Through Wright, Azir subsequently met (and secretly recorded) the other four men named in the bombing complaint.

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