Iman in Zazi Case Sentenced to Time Served, Issues Remain Who Blew Investigation

Iman Ahmad Wais Afzali, an Afgan who grew up in this country and is lawfully present in the U.S., and who cooperated with the NYPD in the investigation into Najibullah Zazi, was sentenced today in federal court in Brooklyn to time served, and given 90 days to self-deport.

The question remains: Did the FBI blow its investigation by its clumsy car stop of Zazi as he was driving into New York on September 10? The Government denies it, Afzali, in his sentencing memorandum and a letter to the court (both available on PACER) insists it is true. [More...]

It appears that the NYPD Intelligence Division, acting without the knowledge of the FBI, went to the home of sometime informant Afzali on September 10 and told him it was urgent that he find out as much as he could about Zazi. They didn't tell him why and they gave him no instructions on how to do this. So the Iman called a relative of Zazi's, who put him in touch with Zazi's father, who put him in touch with Zazi. The Iman called Zazi and told him law enforcement was asking about him, and that whatever he was going to do, he shouldn't. The Iman told the same thing to Zazi's friend, Adis Medunjanin, also under Indictment as part of the alleged suicide bombing plot. (Another high school buddy of Zazi and Medunjanin, Zarein Ahmedzay, is also charged but the Iman didn't speak to him.)

At least three times on September 11, after speaking to Zazi or Medunjanin, the Iman called his NYPD handlers and told them what had been said. Each time they asked him to find out more.

The FBI found out about the Iman's call to Zazi because they had Zazi's phone wiretapped. Not aware the NYPD had asked the Iman to find out what he could, they confronted the Iman, who got scared, and denied to the FBI he had spoken with Zazi.

The Iman says non-public documents show Zazi was aware of law enforcement interest in him before he left Denver, and the traffic stop confirmed it, causing him to call of the plans. The Iman's phone call to Zazi the next day was immaterial, because Zazi had already decided to abort the plan.

The New York Times interviewed the Iman at his home this week and presents his side. The Government doesn't buy the Iman's explanation for lying to the FBI, and in a letter to the Court (available on PACER) objects to the Iman casting himself as the victim.

None of this, according to both the Government and the Iman, affect his guideline calculations or sentence. But, given that the NYPD went behind the back of the FBI, and it was the FBI's traffic stop, not the Iman's phone calls, that alerted Zazi and his co-defendants, who is really at fault?

The Iman clearly can't return to Afghanistan. As an informant assisting law enforcment in a terror case, his life would be in danger. He's diabetic and has lived in the U.S. since childhood. Where will he go? And had he gotten an attorney when contacted by the NYPD, as most people would have done, would he even be in this trouble? His lawyer says no. Had he called a lawyer, the ground rules for his cooperation, particularly as to what he should do or not do in trying to obtain information about Zazi, would have been clearly spelled out.

Lying to the FBI is a crime. The Iman is paying for it with his forced deportation. But, given that his actions were at the behest of the NYPD, who withheld it from the FBI, does the punishment fit the crime?

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  • Display: Sort:
    Let it be a lesson... (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by kdog on Fri Apr 16, 2010 at 08:35:54 AM EST
    to all informants and law enforcement "assets", you're playing with fire when you cooperate, often better to not get involved.  

    It would be nice if our system wasn't so punitive-minded and you could work in partnership with law enforcement without fear, but thats just not the way it works 'round here.

    Your reputation precedes you (none / 0) (#4)
    by Rojas on Sat Apr 17, 2010 at 09:19:46 AM EST
    Kdog posting those two words "'round here" queued up thoughts of Old Doc Skinner in REK's Wild Wind Blows.