Providing "a rare glimpse into how federal informants work," The Intercept on Thursday published a recording of a conversation between a lonely, 21-year-old Michigan man and the woman whom he tried to impress by claiming he had both an AK-47 and supposed aspirations for violence.
The man is Khalil Abu Rayyan, who has been indicted on federal gun charges. The woman called herself "Jannah Bride," and claimed to be a 19-year-old Sunni Muslim. In fact, she was an FBI informant who, when Rayyan spoke of wanting to kill himself, "deftly steered the conversation to violence against other people."
Jannah Bride was what is known as an FBI "honeypot"—a spy who uses romantic allure to entrap his or her target.
According to reporter Trevor Aaronson, a contributing writer at The Intercept and executive director of the nonprofit Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, "the U.S. government now alleges that Rayyan...is an Islamic State sympathizer who talked of attacking a church in Detroit. Federal prosecutors have not filed terrorism-related charges, yet they are handling Rayyan's indictment with the secrecy of a national security investigation."
Listen to the recording, obtained exclusively by The Intercept, below:
The exposé is further evidence of how U.S. law enforcement has targeted the American Muslim community.
As Aaronson wrote in March, "the FBI uses more than 15,000 informants widely in counterterrorism investigations. Recent FBI investigations have focused on alleged Islamic State sympathizers, many with highly questionable outcomes."
Indeed, a 2014 report from Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute revealed the many ways in which U.S. law enforcement treats American Muslims like "terrorists-in-waiting."
Last year, The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman explored "a now-familiar FBI pattern whereby the agency does not disrupt planned domestic terror attacks but rather creates them, then publicly praises itself for stopping its own plots."
The agency's first step, wrote Greenwald and Fishman, is to "target a Muslim: not due to any evidence of intent or capability to engage in terrorism, but rather for the 'radical' political views he expresses. In most cases, the Muslim targeted by the FBI is a very young (late teens, early 20s), adrift, unemployed loner who has shown no signs of mastering basic life functions, let alone carrying out a serious terror attack, and has no known involvement with actual terrorist groups."
In a motion filed last week, Rayyan's lawyers, Todd Shanker and Benton C. Martin, reportedly wrote: "The government clearly exploited Rayyan, and blatantly attempted to steer him toward terrorism as an acceptable form of suicide before God."