The Sting: How the FBI Created a Terrorist

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The Sting: How the FBI Created a Terrorist

'If Osmakac was a terrorist, he was only one in his troubled mind and in the minds of ambitious federal agents.'

 (Illustration: Jon Proctor/The Intercept)

In the video, Sami Osmakac is tall and gaunt, with jutting cheekbones and a scraggly beard. He sits cross-legged on the maroon carpet of the hotel room, wearing white cotton socks and pants that rise up his legs to reveal his thin, pale ankles. An AK-47 leans against the closet door behind him. What appears to be a suicide vest is strapped to his body. In his right hand is a pistol. 

“Recording,” says an unseen man behind the camera.

“This video is to all the Muslim youth and to all the Muslims worldwide,” Osmakac says, looking straight into the lens. “This is a call to the truth. It is the call to help and aid in the party of Allah … and pay him back for every sister that has been raped and every brother that has been tortured and raped.

The recording goes on for about eight minutes. Osmakac says he’ll avenge the deaths of Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere. He refers to Americans as kuffar, an Arabic term for nonbelievers. “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth,” he says. “Woman for a woman, child for a child.”

Osmakac was 25 years old on January 7, 2012, when he filmed what the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice would later call a “martyrdom video.” He was also broke and struggling with mental illness.

After recording this video in a rundown Days Inn in Tampa, Florida, Osmakac prepared to deliver what he thought was a car bomb to a popular Irish bar. According to the government, Osmakac was a dangerous, lone-wolf terrorist who would have bombed the Tampa bar, then headed to a local casino where he would have taken hostages, before finally detonating his suicide vest once police arrived.

But if Osmakac was a terrorist, he was only one in his troubled mind and in the minds of ambitious federal agents. The government could not provide any evidence that he had connections to international terrorists. He didn’t have his own weapons. He didn’t even have enough money to replace the dead battery in his beat-up, green 1994 Honda Accord.

Osmakac was the target of an elaborately orchestrated FBI sting that involved a paid informant, as well as FBI agents and support staff working on the setup for more than three months. The FBI provided all of the weapons seen in Osmakac’s martyrdom video. The bureau also gave Osmakac the car bomb he allegedly planned to detonate, and even money for a taxi so he could get to where the FBI needed him to go. Osmakac was a deeply disturbed young man, according to several of the psychiatrists and psychologists who examined him before trial. He became a “terrorist” only after the FBI provided the means, opportunity and final prodding necessary to make him one.

Read the full article at The Intercept.

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